Top Chefs Premiere

Anthony Sica recaps the first episode of Top Chef: Las Vegas. Who impressed? Who went home early? It’s all after the jump.

Last night’s Top Chef: Las Vegas premiere was hyped more than any season to date. It was a special night for Philadelphia as we had two ladies in the competition this year, Jennifer Zavala of Xochitl and Jennifer Carroll of 10 Arts. The show opened in sunny Las Vegas and the fish tank equipped Top Chef kitchen in the M Resort. Tom Colicchio is back as head judge, Gail Simmons is also back with a higher neckline after her abridged appearance on last season’s show due to her wedding. Padma Lakshmi is the one filling the Bravo cleavage quota this season while Toby Young was absent from the premiere.

The first quick fire of the year is the favorite “Mis en place Relay Race”. The cast was broken up into teams of four as they speeded through clams, prawns, lobster and prime rib. Philly’s Jenn Zavala cut herself shucking clams and Jennifer Carroll held her own opening the bivalves. The winning team was the Blue Team and they entered into the first ever High Stakes Quickfire Challenge with the winner awarded $15,000. Home girl Jenn Carroll won with her simple clam ceviche ( or as she would say “suh-veech”).

Wolfgang Puck served as guest judge in the first elimination challenge where the chefs had to make a dish inspired by their biggest vices. Aside from revealing that the majority of the cast suffer from some form of alcohol dependency, this was the first time we were able to see the real personalities of these chefs in the kitchen and on the plate. Ron came across as warm and lovable with his island inspired fish. What’s his vice? No one is really sure, but the guy just seems fun to be around. Mike Isabella delivered a solid dish with his Olive Oil Poached Halibut with Eggplant Puree. Jennifer Carroll also poached halibut and paired it with a whiskey, bourbon and scotch sauce to land in the top 4.

Kevin Gillespie delivered the best interpretation of his procrastination with his Arctic Char with a Salsa Verde of Turnips and won the first Elimination Challenge of the season.

While there were bright spots, there were also some low lights of the evening. Jesse Sandlin dried out her braised chicken. Eve fell flat with the execution and seasoning of her curried shrimp and scallops. Hector deep fried a steak and put it next to some raw celery. Our girl Jenn Zavala’s hot tempered Chile Relleno stuffed with Seitan proved to be her downfall and she was the first chef this season to pack her knives and go.

I take a little bit of offense that Zavala would go home over Hector. He served a deep fried steak to Wolfgang Puck in his own steakhouse. I don’t know how he could even begin to think of that being a good idea. This was the first challenge and Zavala could have come out a bit stronger. I would understand seitan if this were a vegetarian challenge, but you had other chefs making bacon doughnuts and buffalo. Perhaps Zavala should have gotten to Xochitl sooner she could have put out their beef stuffed chile with creamy walnut and pomegranate sauce. It turned out to be a bittersweet night for Philadelphia and I am bummed that I won’t be able to see Zavala continue Some chefs that did open eyes were Kevin Gillespie, Mike Isabella, the Voltaggio brothers, and Mattin with his neckerchief. Jenn Carroll looks like a force to be reckoned with and hopefully she goes far in this competition.