Good morning. My name is Joshua David Stein. Today we will be discussing Season Five of Bravo's Top Chef. The premiere of that show aired last night.
The minutes before 10pm could not tick away fast enough. After a taxing season of Project Runway, Top Chef was back and with it the possibility that true villainy, true genius, and perhaps Padma Lakshmi's boob slipping out of her dress and, looking to shore up their breeder ratings, Bravo would keep the nip slip in. The first episode of a season is always like Day One at camp: you figure out your bunk bed (are you a top or a bottom?), you make first stabs at alliances, you wear a t-shirt you think is really clever that you've picked out months before that has writing on it that you think will make you beloved by all. Writing like, for instance, "Beer Pong" or "Diablo" or "Trust Me. I'm Perfect." Mostly though, you meet your bunkmates. Let's.There were, what, seventeen cheftestants? Obviously our sticky emotional strands will only Glaad Cling Wrap® to a few. But for the sake of simplicity and because the work has been done for us, let's break them up into teams. On one side, Team Rainbow (LGBT), on the other, the Europeans, on another the Obamas (rascally and inspiring minority report), on the other The Palins (the scary, the sad, the unfit). These four teams form the inward facing phalanx of Top Chef combat. Team Rainbow: The real character of this team—other than young bottom and weird massager Patrick who was also a Palin and is now gone—is the bro-jock-gay Richard, a bearish version of Dale who worships Tom Colicchio in a way that almost certainly is creepy and wore a t-shirt that said, "Beer Pong." (Weirdly, that's popular to do!) Last sentence in his official bio: "On the side, he also works at the San Diego bar, Pecs." Please check out the image to the left and the account of Flickr user Thikstache for more documentation of Pecs. The Europeans: This team is actually only two people (one "from" Italy and one from Finland) but, for taxonomic ease, we'll throw Leah in there too since she's from New York which is part Europe anyway. First of all, the point has been raised that Fabio the Florentine is actually an actor and not from Italy at all. He may or may not be a conman. Like a certain other handsome Italian—wink! wink! Anne Hathaway, I see you reading me! You need to turn off the camera in your MacBook because I can see you through it!—Fabio is involved with some charitable foundation (Firenze4Kids and Kidshealthcafe.com). Also, his accent is way too comically thick. It is what we, in the biz, call a dialect. But finally, this is the tell. Last line in his bio: "Additionally, Fabio also works as William Shatner's private chef." The Obamas: This is the minority catch-all. Maybe post-op Carla Hall M-to-F is here. Latino Alex who thinks Indian and Latin cuisine are the same (WTF?!), also here. But the Obamas are really embodied by small tattooed Gene who never went to cooking school, never had Indian food, who grew up on a small rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and still managed to make damn good Indian curds and cheese [Note to Padma: Rein it in, woman! You were all sorts of up in Gene's shit.] Can we count on this baby-faced charming outsider? Yes We Can! A bit preemptive I know, but I'm calling Season Five for Gene. The Palins: These are the sacrificial lambs led to the slaughter for the sake of ratings, people who have no business being in the spotlight. Yet watching them struggle and writhe and pee their pants and not know it and walk around soiled and sad is such an unfettered joy that we temporarily put aside sympathy for the much more rewarding schadenfreude. The poor mom from Montclaire, NJ, totally outclassed. The guy with the bizarre facial hair who made chicken salad and said Europe was his backyard but who is endearing like Emile from Ratatouille. Lauren, who went home after the quickfire to an empty bed since her husband is in Iraq but who still—though she knew it was only to long lonely nights she would return—couldn't come up with anything better than an apple salad with spinach and blue cheese and bacon. These people will be a riot while they last but they won't last long. And when they leave, a trail of gaffes and toilet paper stuck to their clogs in their wake, we'll feel a pang of regret, not only because we were less than kind but because we have no one to laugh at anymore. That is, until 2012 or next week. Whichever comes sooner.