Bright Knives, Big City: The Return of Top Chef
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Trash-talking, knife-wielding egomaniacs filled the ultra-deluxe commercial grade kitchen as season five of Bravo TV’s hit reality show TOP CHEF premiered in New York. Contestants shed tears, sweat, and blood (literally)—and that was just during the warm-up challenge!

Seventeen new chefs arrived to battle it out for the big title, but they weren’t all strangers—two competitors knew each other from culinary school. Recent graduate Lauren was thrilled to reconnect with sweet young Patrick, who is still a student there. “We used to get into all kinds of trouble together,” Lauren admitted. The friends shared one of those jumping hug reunions filled with promises to cheer each other on through the long weeks of the competition ahead.

We also met Jeff, the hunky surfer whose blonde locks get as much pampering as his dishes. And Carla, the kooky caterer with buggy eyes who claims to be led to culinary inspiration by her spirit guides. And then there’s Richard, the self-proclaimed “queen” who thinks judge Tom Colicchio is super-cute and can’t wait to see what host/supermodel Padma Lakshmi will be wearing this season.

During the apple-themed quick fire challenge, Stefan, Finland’s finest chef (according to himself), peeled his way to immunity from elimination for the week. Unfortunately for young culinary school student Patrick, his long-lost BFF, Lauren was the first chef to get the cleaver. After a short but tearful goodbye, the two parted ways again.

Biggest Ego of the Week Award: Stefan’s early success went straight to his bald head. The Finnish chef, whose accent is so thick that it requires subtitles, strutted among his competitors, spouting off culinary advice. The smug Italian-born Fabio bonded with Stefan in American-cuisine-bashing that didn’t go over well with their competitors. “Listen, bros,” warned native New Yorker Daniel, “You’re in my back yard.”

The posturing and posing escalated as chefs were paired up and sent into the most exciting ethnic neighborhoods of New York. Each chef team cooked a meal based on what they found there in a head-to-head “chef-off,” leaving a group of eight winners and eight nervous losers by the end of the day.

In the end, Stefan backed up his substantial self-importance with some amazing culinary skills and won the top spot for the second time in a week. And who had to “pack their knives and go?”—overly sweet student Patrick, who had hoped to grab a big win in honor of his former schoolmate, Lauren. The remaining fifteen chefs breathed a sigh of relief to have survived the week. I suspect they went straight back to their apartment and toasted the fact that they didn’t choose the same crappy culinary academy that Patrick and Lauren did. I can’t wait to see what happens next week!

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