“Top Chef: California” recap (13.1 & 13.2): Double the challenge, double the fun

Hello and welcome back to another season of Top Chefthe place where the queer women flow like wine and Padma Lakshmi one time wore overalls and crashed a shopping cart all over an unsuspecting supermarket. (Never over it.) Anyway, let’s dive right in!

The episode opens in the usual fashion—a montage of quick shots that consist of lots of flames, running, drama, and Tom proclaiming that this season’s group of chefs is “the most talented ever.”


The new chefs enter the kitchen for the very first time and Padma welcomes them to California. This season, the competition will take place all over the state and finally end up back where Top Chef started 10 (10?!) years ago: San Francisco. That fact makes me feel really old, by the way. I’ve been crushing on Padma for a decade! Ours is a forever type of love, you guys.

Some of the chefs start to introduce themselves. I’m not going to lie to y’all, the first few episodes of Top Chef are always a real struggle for me. I’m not great with names, and there are SO many of them! Here is a truth: it is very likely that I will refer to these chefs by some kind of (probably unfairly judgey) nickname until at least the third or fourth episode (and longer for any white dudes, due to my tragic case of white male face blindness). The first chef refers to herself as “Sassy,” which earns some colorful reactions from her colleagues.

img1“Same, girl.

A lot of the chefs this season are James Beard nominees, including Eye Roll Karen (see above), who happens to be from Boston! Yay! In other news, Grayson is back! I thought she looked familiar when she walked in. She was on the Texas season of Top Chef a few years ago. I think I remember liking her? I’ll withhold judgement for now. But I am judging the next guy who talks, a floppy-haired dude (Garrett?) who seems pretty full of himself. I’ve got my eye on you, Floppy.

Quickfire Challenge

It’s a two-parter, the first part being a classic Top Chef opener: the Mise en Place Challenge. On a first come, first served basis, the chefs select one California ingredient to prep. The nine fastest chefs will move onto the second part where immunity will be up for grabs.

The chefs dash around the kitchen, moving their knives faster than I ever have and ever will in my whole life. Sassy is the first one to finish! Okay, girl, I see you. I have a weakness for women who can wield a cleaver. (See as evidence: Mei attacking lobsters in her Mise en Place Challenge last season.) The guy who comes in second place actually just became the Executive Chef at Richard Blais’ old restaurant, so I’m’a call him Blaze Jr.

Floppy Hair thinks he’s all done separating eggs, but Tom comes over and points out that one of the yolks is broken. Tom tells him he can’t move him along until he gets one more full yolk, and Floppy thinks that’ll be easy. It is not, however, easy, and two other people (including Grayson) call check before he can do it.

Hilariously, as soon as the challenge is over some guy with a bun starts complaining about the fact that having an orange squirt in his eye kept him from making it to the next round. The woman next to him is like, “IDK bro, looks like you still had a lot left to do so maybe don’t blame it on an orange?” Lady, I don’t know who you are yet, but I like you. Also, Mr. Bunhead, it’s not like someone else squirted you in the eye? Just shut up.

img2“I have ACID in my eye, basically.”