Top Chef premiered on Wednesday night, throwing the chefs right into the heat of the competition with a swamp-themed elimination challenge in keeping with the show’s New Orleans setting.

Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio tell the newbie contestants that they won’t get the benefit of a no-stakes Quick Fire challenge for them to get comfortable in the kitchen. It’s straight to the Elimination Challenge. The two judges then toss the chefs Mardi Gras beads; the color indictates which protein they'll have to transform into a palatable entrée – alligator, turtle or frog.

As could be expected, some of the chefs were less than enthusiastic about the assigned staple of their dish. A few lamented about once having a pet of the same species they were about to cook, while others were reminded of favorite reptilian cartoon characters. Despite some reservations, each chef got down to business creating their individual dish, hoping to not be the first contestant sent home.

Not only did the chefs have to work with somewhat obscure proteins, but they also had to make enough to feed a sampling to 150 people. The patrons would double as judges, awarding a string of beads to the chef whose dish stood out the most to them. At the end of the meal, the three chefs with the most beads would get a chance of winning, while the three who amass the fewest beads would be in danger of elimination.

At the end of meal, Nina Compton, Sara Johannes, Carrie Mashaney, Shirley Chung and Janine Booth received top marks. Nina made a curried turtle meatball with chayote slaw and raisin chutney. Sara disguised the alligator by deep frying it with smoked chilis and serving it with a sweet and sour glaze and pickled vegetables. Carrie poached her frog legs with oyster emulsion and served it aside a salad of cold zucchini. Shirley took a risk making a turtle soup with goji berry in a Chinese broth. Lastly, Janine made a bacon and alligator confit, which she served with tomato jam and lemon frisee.

On the lower end of the spectrum were Aaron Cuschieri, Patty Vega, Carlos Gaytan, Ramon Bojorquez and Bene Bartolotta. Aaron’s pickled eggplant with turtle confit and turtle ragoe with tagliatelle pasta failed to impress. Patty made a Cajun style alligator with yucca puree. Carlos served alligator rillettes with fennel and pickled onion relish. Bene made uninspired turtle croquettes with cauliflower puree and shitake mushrooms. And, Ramon paired braised turtle with iced Thai dashi.

In the middle of the pack on Top Chef's first week were Bret Pelaggi, Brian Huskey, Jason Cichonski, Justin Devillier, Louis Maldonado, Michel Sichel, Nicholas Elmi, Stephanie Cmar and Travis Masar.

The judges ultimately name Nina, whose dad was a Prime Minister of St. Lucia, the winner of the first Elimination Challenge. Ramon ends up being the first chef to go home, after the judges deemed his adding ice to dashi the challenge's biggest offense.

Top Chef airs Wednesday nights on Bravo at 10/9c.

– Chelsea Regan

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