Back to the basics on ‘Top Chef’ season 10

From left, "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio and judge Gail Simmons.
(Amy Sussman / Getty Images)

Season 10 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” premiered Wednesday night without a bang. Twenty-one contestants visited four of the judges’ restaurants: There were no crazy ingredients, extreme weather conditions or impossible cook-from-a-vending-machine challenges. And it was incredibly refreshing.

This season takes place in Seattle, but in order to get there, the contestants had to pass basic tests to earn their chef’s coats. Chef Tom Colicchio brought his team into his Craft kitchen to see how they performed during a real night of service with a kitchen staff; Emeril Lagasse challenged his group with making soup at his restaurant Table 10; handsome uni-brow-donning chef Hugh Acheson tasked his contestants to create salads at Empire State South; and new judge Wolfgang Puck, who proved a bit of a softy, asked his chefs to cook an omelet at Cut.

It’s too soon to tell who will be the last man, or woman standing, but it’s never too early to give the contestants some hard-earned nicknames. Chef Joshua Valentine is now “the ‘Stache,” for his gnarly mustache with curved tips; Kristen Kish is now “Twiggy” for her model background -- and can we just pause for a second to mention how annoying -- and by annoying I mean pure-green-jealousy-inducing -- it is to see a hot model working it in the kitchen? Carla Pellegrino is aptly named “Hot Mess,” for her nonstop cursing and mini flip-outs; Bart Vanaele, the tall Belgian with the accent is now “Knight” -- he happens to be a real one; and contestant Gina Keatley earned herself the nickname “Type A,” but unfortunately didn’t make it to Seattle. Too bad, because she could have definitely been Hot Mess No. 2.

Next week, Gail Simmons and Padma Laskshmi return, and the remaining 15 chefs hit Seattle. I know the basic challenges were only a tease, and the chefs will be thrown into the impossible challenges the show is known for, but it was fun to watch budding chefs do their thing, without the theatrics.


“Top Chef” airs on Bravo Wednesdays at 10/9 Central.


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