TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: Chef with a Capital C


Top Chef returned last week, and already, I’m optimistic for this season. Gone are all the tattooed chefs with their pompous sneers and ridiculous attempts at being badasses. Now we have a more likable group of personalities, even if a few jerks have emerged from the pack (ie. Angelo). Even more encouraging is the sense that with a few exceptions (Angelo again and Kenny), everyone seems to be more or less on the same playing field. And that playing field ain’t very good. Nearly every chef seemed to receive middling to unsatisfactory remarks from the judges, which include new mainstay Eric Ripert. Unlike last season which saw a core group of talent that clearly outclassed the rest of the cast, I think this cycle is anyone’s game. Kenny and Angelo are the obvious frontrunners, but who knows — some others could creep up in there.

One such contender could be Amanda Baumgarten, who’s a sous chef at Los Angeles’s very own Water Grill. I was actually lucky enough (thanks to a lead from Tony C of to attend a dinner event at the restaurant for Top Chef’s premiere last week, and we were lucky enough to enjoy Amanda’s Tai Snapper Sashimi (which I believe she served to judges in the elimination challenge). Tom, Gail, and the gang didn’t totally love it, but I thought it was quite tasty. Then again, serving food in a reality show environment versus your home kitchen turf is a whole different ball game; so who knows how different the dishes were. I can also safely say that Amanda’s other dish she served (Maryland soft-shell crab with grilled sweet corn and bacon tomato vinaigrette) was totally mouthwatering (as was the third dish, a Columbia River king salmon with asparagus and poached egg, which was cooked by her boss, David LeFevre). Needless to say, the Water Grill’s fête for Amanda was certainly delicious (and I haven’t even touched on the heaps of oysters I slurped down. Oh… and the prosecco — I could go on and on).

The point is that I’m excited to see what Amanda (who incidentally was lovely) and all the others have in store for us. I’m a touch sad about the season’s first elimination. The gangly, awkward John Somerville was strange but oddly likable; sort of like the second coming of Carla. If he’d stuck around a week or two, I bet he would have churned out some quality stuff and become a fan favorite in the process. Alas. Nevertheless, as much as I love talking about the chefs, it all comes down to one thing: Pad ‘n’ Gail. Pics of the two, as well as many others, after the jump…

Padma: “Welcome to Top Chef! I know some of you may be surprised to see how we look in person. The camera does add a few pounds here and there. For instance, you may be happy to know that my dear and luscious friend Gail Simmons is not, in fact, THIIIIIS big. Bless her heart.”

Padma: “Cheftestants, this season promises to be full of surprises.”
Tom: “For instance, Padma is bigger than Gail now. Surprise!”
Padma: “Excuse me?”

Padma: “There’ll be plenty of challenges along the way for all of you.”
Tom: “Although, admittedly, we already completed the biggest challenge: getting Padma into that vest.”
“I apologize, cheftestants, Tom seems a bit testy this morning. I guess he’s having a bad hair day. Purely metaphorically, obviously.”

“Who put potatoes here? There’s gonne be a lot of finger-pointing, that’s for sure.”
Padma: “Oh I was hiding those from Gail. She’s been on a real starch binge lately. Poor thing tackled a man for his curly fries yesterday, bless her heart.”

Tom: “Okay, Amanda. These potatoes look good. Also, did you see the paunch on Padma? Crazy, huh?”

Tom: “Hey Kenny – does it annoy you when I blow this whistle in your ear? How about now? How about now? What about now? Just say when it gets annoying. Now? How about now?”

“Hey, my name is Angelo, and I guess the best way to describe my culinary point of view is… ASSHOLE.”

“Guurl, no one told me we’d all be wearing the same chef coats. Why’d I spent $200 on that damn wardrobe consultant?”

“Ah oui. This tastes like — how you say? — crap.”

Padma: “Wow, this all looks just delicious, but I’m afraid I must refrain from tasting it as I’m trying to lose some baby weight. However, I’m sure my dear friend Gail Simmons would be more than happy to have my portion, bless her heart.”

Tom: “Haha. ‘Baby weight.’ Right. Well, you’ve got a LONG way to go to get rid of THAT. Hahahaha.”
Eric: “She is, how you say, le vache qui rit. You know, laughing cow.”
Gail: “Bless her heart.”

Padma: “You’ll have to excuse my friends here. They’ve been acting a touch cruel since they learned they won’t be invited to film a sexy Carl’s Jr. commercial also.”
Tom: “Great company you’re keeping there, Padma. Audrina Patridge. Wow. I’m blown away. Like, WOW.”
Padma: “Tom, that’s enough.”
Gail: “Sounds like bitch is hungry.”
Eric: “Beaucoup de crankiness.”
Gail: “‘Hey, I’m Padma. Somebody give me a Carl’s Jr.! I’m hungry!!!’ Gobble gobble gobble.”
Tom & Eric: “hahahahahah.”
Gail: “Seriously, I want Carl’s Jr. This food is crap.”

Gail: “So, Padma, what did you think of the chefs? I like to hear the perspective of a full-figured girl.”
Padma: “Well, I’m not so sure I can answer that, but clearly your friends should be able to provide you insight. Oh, and I must respectfully decline your invitation to dine at Del Taco after this.”
Tom: “That’s because she just ate three buritos in the bathroom. Hahaha.”
Padma: “Tom, you’re being cruel.”
Tom: “So were you when you ripped that donut out of the production assistant’s hands.”
Padma: “I did no such thing.”
Eric: “You were — how you say? — big pig.”
Gail: “It’s okay, Padma. Many women your age binge on food. Maybe you’re just going through the change, bless your heart.”

Amanda and I. My new BFF (or as much as one can be after twenty seconds of interaction).

What did you think about the premiere?

9 replies on “TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: Chef with a Capital C”

  1. that “luscious” comment was obnoxious…and funny. may have to rewatch the episode to get a gail reaction shot…

  2. Wow, Gail’s getting her revenge this season! She better get as much of it as she can, cuz knowing Padma, she’ll be back to her perfect self next season, mark my words!

  3. Arnold got a facial, a stylist and was the only one to buy an orchid for his station. I hope he keeps entertaining me.

    Padma is not only chunky – she appears to be under the charm of one David Spade. Basically the bitch is having a bad year.


  4. B— you need to start SMIZING with those beautiful eyes of yours.
    I’m calling Tyra right now, she can work you through it.

  5. I am glad I get to share my story regarding Padma’s saltiness from one of the guest judges. Michelle Bernstein, James Beard Award winner from Miami, has guest judged many times. While in Miami at her restaurant Michy’s, my friend and I wanted to know what her experience was like. She mentioned to us that she does not like Padma. This was because she would not allow Michelle to utilize the makeup people. Total b$%ch!!

    Anyways, Michelle is fabulous and Michy’s was amazing. I have a pic of the experience if anyone wants me to send it along to B.

  6. I LOVE IT!! great (and hilarious!!) as usual!! especially the one with Tom blowing the whistle in Kenny’s ear!!

  7. I have to ask. This is the 2nd season of Top Chef I’ve watched but what is the deal with Padma and Gail? Did Padma say something rude to Gail at some point or does Padma just make passive aggressive remarks? Enlighten me please!

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