Top Chef Seattle, Episode 1: Only the Strong Survive the Test Kitchens

Chef Lizzie Binder gets lost in Tom Colicchio’s eyes.

Top Chef returned last night for its tenth season. Twenty-one chefs would be competing for an initial place in the competition. I find this part of the series particularly gut-wrenching as some talented folks are going home before the real fun has begun!

The action opens with Tom Colicchio at craft in Los Angeles. Chef Colicchio is both completely charming and utterly terrifying. I fear that the folks trying to impress him will have to try a bit harder than the others auditioning for Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, or Hugh Acheson. The chefs will have to work actual service in the craft kitchen —  and either hold it together or fall apart. It’s tough to come into a strange kitchen, but that is actually what a lot of chefs do every time they look for a new job. So, at this point in their careers, they should be able to come in, assess, adapt, and impress.

First up, 54-year-old John Tesar of Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Dallas does not display anything that would lead you to believe he has a reputation as a hothead, as Colicchio says he does. Tesar has had a great deal of success, while also dealing with some personal issues, but he is very respectful in the kitchen, doing his tasks “the ‘craft’ way.” He’s the first to get a Top Chef jacket – and simultaneously has “3,000 pounds lifted off my back!”

He’s been called the most hated chef in Dallas. Will he stake the same claim on this season of Top Chef?

Lizzie Binder, Executive Chef of Bar Bambino in San Francisco, is from South Africa, has a bit of a crush on Tom (who doesn’t?!), and is a mom. She’s also wholly guileless and works enthusiastically and efficiently. She, too, gets a Top Chef jacket.

Anthony Gray, Executive Chef at Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, has an interesting approach to butchery, preferring to use a paring knife instead of a boning knife or a chef knife. He’s kindly and obviously talented, but he doesn’t hit his stride in the craft kitchen and is sent back to the ATL.

Jorel Pierce, the mustachioed Chef de Cuisine of Denver’s Euclid Hall specializes in butchery, but, unfortunately, he misunderstands Tom’s instructions for taking down chickens and over-salts a beurre fondue. I’m bummed he didn’t get a jacket because his ‘stache is spectacular.

Micah Fields, Executive Chef at The Standard Hotel in Los Angeles skipped over being a sous chef, going from line cook to executive chef in one fell swoop. He’s not great at filleting fish, but he moves with confidence around the kitchen, easily snagging a Top Chef jacket.

“If you’re missing something, I ate it.”

In Las Vegas, at the Palazzo Hotel (I just stayed there and it’s lovely, in case you were wondering), Emeril Lagasse puts another group of hopefuls through the mill at Table 10. They’ve got one hour to make soup. It’s one of the things Emeril judges a restaurant by, and he wants it to have structure, seasoning, and depth. Ready? Go!

Jeffrey Jew, Chef de Cuisine at Blackbyrd, in Washington, D.C. is making a watermelon-tomato gazpacho. Emeril wonders if he can chill the gazpacho quickly enough. Turns out Jeffrey can – he gets the first Top Chef coat.

Kristin Kish, Sous Chef at Stir in Boston, and besties with fellow competitor and spoon-tattoo-wearer Stephanie, makes an English pea broth and sails right into the Top Chef jacket fitting room.

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James Beard Foundation Awards Nominees 2010: Congratulations!

The list of James Beard Foundation Awards nominees for 2010 has been released. Congratulations to everyone whose hard work and great talents have been recognized by the industry’s most prestigious organization. The winners will be announced on May 3, 2010, but there aren’t any losers in this round-up. Nominees include:

James-Beard-Awards-2010-nomineesBEST NEW RESTAURANT
* Bibou, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Pierre and Charlotte Calmels

* Flour + Water, San Francisco, California
Chef/Partner: Thomas McNaughton
Partners: David White and David Steele

* Frances, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Melissa Perello

* Marea, New York, New York
Chef/Partner: Michael White
Partner: Chris Cannon

* RN74, San Francisco, California
Chef: Jason Berthold
Owners: Michael Mina and Rajat Parr

* José Andrés, The Bazaar by José Andrés and Zaytinya
* Tom Colicchio, Craft and Colicchio & Sons
* Charles Phan, The Slanted Door

* Amanda Cook, CityZen at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C.
* Nicole Plue, Redd, Yountville, California

* Boulevard, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Nancy Oakes
Owner: Pat Kuleto

* Daniel, New York, New York
Chef/Owner: Daniel Boulud
Owner: Joel Smilow

* Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Chef/Owner: Frank Stitt
Owner: Pardis Stitt

* Spiaggia, Chicago, Illinois
Chef/Partner: Tony Mantuano

* Tom Douglas. Restaurants include Dahlia Lounge, Etta’s, and Lola.

* Pat Kuleto, Pat Kuleto Restaurant Development & Management Co., San Francisco, California. Restaurants include Boulevard, Epic, Martini House, Waterbar.

* Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago, Illinois. Restaurants include Big Bowl, Hub 51, Osteria Via Stato, Tru, and Wildfire.

* Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurant Organization, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Restaurants include Alma De Cuba, Buddakan, Morimoto, and Parc.

* La Grenouille, New York, New York
Owners: Charles Masson and Gisèle Masson

* Michael Mina, San Francisco, California
Chef/Owner: Michael Mina

* Vetri, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chefs/Owners: Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin

* Paul Grieco, Hearth, New York, New York

* A16, San Francisco, California
Wine Director: Shelley Lindgren

* Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Wine Director: Bobby Stuckey

* Jean Georges, New York, New York
Wine Director: Bernard Sun

* Timothy Hollingsworth, The French Laundry, Yountville, California
* Grégory Pugin, Veritas, New York, New York

Best Chef: Great Lakes
*Bruce Sherman, North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
* Alex Young, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
* Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
* Jeff Michaud, Osteria, Philadelphia, Pennsyvlania
* Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
* Bryan Voltaggio, VOLT, Frederick, Maryland

Best Chef: Midwest
* Colby Garrelts, Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouri
* Alexander Roberts, Restaurant Alma, Minneapolis, Minnesota
* Lenny Russo, Heartland, St. Paul, Minnesota

Best Chef: New York City
* Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern
* Wylie Dufresne, wd-50
* Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park
* Michael White, Marea

Best Chef: Northeast
* Michael Leviton, Lumière, West Newton, Massachusetts
* Tony Maws, Craigie on Main, Cambridge, Massachusetts
* Marc Orfaly, Pigalle, Boston, Massachusetts

Best Chef: Northwest
* Ethan Stowell, Union, Seattle, Washington
* Jason Wilson, Crush, Seattle, Washington

Best Chef: Pacific
* Michael Cimarusti, Providence, Los Angeles, California
* Jeremy Fox, Ubuntu, Napa, California
* David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos, California
* Matt Molina, Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
* Michael Tusk, Quince, San Francisco, California

Best Chef: South
* Zach Bell, Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court, Palm Beach, Florida
* Scott Boswell, Stella!, New Orleans, Louisiana
* John Harris, Lilette, New Orleans, Louisiana
* Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Miami, Florida

Best Chef: Southeast
* Sean Brock, McCrady’s, Charleston, South Carolina
* Linton Hopkins, Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, Georgia

Best Chef: Southwest
* Bryan Caswell, Reef, Houston, Texas
* Ryan Hardy, Montagna at The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
* Rick Moonen, RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Read more about the James Beard Foundation and the 2010 Awards, click here. Purchase tickets here. And, reserve your seat at the next James Beard House dinner in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for a unique dining experience in the birthplace of modern American gastronomy.