Ron Duprat's Top Chef Recap Episode One
All the chefs are rolled out and introduced; some get lengthy introductions where they talk about their accomplishments, families, and sexual orientations (Ash Fulk of Trestle on Tenth thinks he is Ellen, apparently). Ron just gets a faceplate with his name that flashes by quickly. He's got a really loveable smile, though.
A few minutes in we see Ron showing up at the Top Chef house. He introduces himself and talks a little bit about his background. "I grew up in Haiti," he says, "and my philosphies are keep it real, keep it simple, and let's have fun." Right away you can tell Ron's a real character, a jolly sort of big man with a real quirky side. I hope we see more of it.
Next, we get some more introductions, and a couple contestants are wearing meat-related shirts. Anti-vegetarianism sure has reached some new heights. Eli sports a "bacon" shirt, while Jesse has bright blue disco-fied duds that read "meat is meat." Yes. Yes it is.
There's going to be a quickfire challenge, where contestants can win $15,000 by making the best dish with ingredients culled from a mise en place relay. Ron doesn't get to participate since he's stuck behind Preeti, who apparently can't shuck a clam to save her life. Too bad, because Ron would've rocked in a seafood challenge. Hector Santiago comments on how much more beautiful host Padma is in person -- no one ever says that about poor old Tom Colicchio.
We also get a glipse of who will likely be the villain this season, Zaytinya chef Mike Isabella. In his two minutes of air time so far, he's insulted people, acted like a cocky asshole, and said of fellow-contestant Jennifer, who nearly beat him in the mise en place relay, "No offense, but there's no way a girl should be at the same level as I am." It worked, Bravo. I think he's a dick already. I am, however, slightly annoyed by Jennifer's pronunciation of ceviche. "Civ-eech." Blech.
Jennifer wins with her civeech, and it's on to the next challenge, and hopefully more Ron, who's had all of 20 seconds face time 30 minutes in to the program. The contestants are heading to Whole Foods (Not many liberals in the bunch, eh? Or didn't they get the memo*?) where they've got 30 minutes to come up with a meal that best represents their personal vice. Ron gets some screen time! He says of his planned meal, "My journey to the US was 27 days at sea. It was very dangerous because sometimes they threw people overboard. The other guys caught the fish, and I cooked the fish and that kept me alive." Damn, that's wicked. Top Chef doesn't often handle the whole "cooking to live" side of the culinary arts, and it's clear that's where Ron got his passion -- cooking literally kept him from starvation, and being tossed overboard. We'll see how much more the show delves into this obviously touchy subject. My guess: not much.
Ron decides on Chilean sea bass, saying, "It's not easy to let that [time in my life] go, so my vice is going to be a fish dish." Not really a vice, per se, but I like the theme.
We see Ron a little bit here in the kitchen as he prepares his dish, seared sea bass with an Island hash. He's a fun guy, dancing around a bit and singing. The other contestants are, naturally, freaking the fuck out.
When it's time to judge, Wolfgang Puck shows up to do the honors. Ron comes forward with his dish and explains the story. Gail is moved, but Tom notes he's not sure Ron picked an appropriate vice. Again, he's kinda right, but be a little flexible, Tom. They seem to like Ron's sea bass, and Wolfgang himself notes that it's cooked "pretty good." Nice job, Ron!
The contestants run back to what looks like an electrical room/hurricane bunker to await sentencing, I mean to hear who gets the boot. Padma comes in looking all somber and calls Ron in along with Kevin, Michael, and Jennifer. Turns out, Ron had the best dish of his group - booya!
Gail says, "I definitely got those typical island flavors. I thought the dish was nice and the fish was cooked great." Tom, the stick in the mud, says, "It's great hearing your story. I'm not quite sure it's a vice, but we're happy that you lived through that to be here with us." Aw, touching. Jerk.
They choose Kevin as the overall winner, and send out Hector, Jen, Jesse, and Eve. Jen bites the big one with her giant, excrement-looking pepper, and takes off. End of episode one, and Ron's still here. That's one day on the island! Woo! (Inappropriate? Oh well.)
* Yes, I know the show was filmed long before the boycott. Thems are jokes.
Catch episode two in the next post.