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'Top Chef' D.C. makes its premiere

June 17, 2010 |  2:40 pm

Frvw6fke "Top Chef" has returned in all its cutthroat, snarky glory, this time setting up shop in the nation's capital. 

From the get-go, Michelin-starred Angelo Sosa made it clear that he wants to be the first contestant to win every challenge. If similarly starred champ Michael Voltaggio is any indicator, this could be a rough season for contenders.

In the first mis en place quickfire, the chefs were challenged to peel potatoes, brunoise onions and break down chickens. Although several of the chefs would be hard-pressed to beat the kids at In-N-Out, Kenny Gilbert whizzed through each challenge like Julia Child hopped up on espresso. However, Gilbert's luck stopped when they had to prepare a dish with the three ingredients; Sosa won with his chicken with onion jam, starting him off on the path to his goal.

For the elimination challenge, the 17 chefs were to make a dish that represented their home town. The challenge seemed a bit strange, considering most of the chefs were nowhere near their stomping grounds, making it difficult to procure local produce and foodstuffs. ("Top Chef Masters" judge Jay Rayner may have had a few things to say about this challenge, especially after his accusations in this heated online debate that Rick Moonen was being as sustainable as he touted himself to be) The chefs made do with what they could gather from Whole Foods, and headed to serve a party of 300 in D.C.

Offerings ranged from incredible to inedible. Sosa's arctic char with bacon foam and local chef Alex Reznik's deconstructed spare rib borscht appeared unique and inspired. On the flip-side, there was Jacqueline Lombard's "low-fat", undercooked, unstrained, gritty-as-all-get-out chicken liver mousse and Amanda Baumgarten's red snapper carpaccio that looked like unset Jell-O. And then there was Timothy Dean's ill-prepared, skin-on monkfish that he had to serve to Le Bernadin seafood god Eric Ripert, of all people.

The apex of awful, the judges agreed, was knotty dreadlocked John Summerville's saccharine maple cream in store-bought puffed pastry. A hippie buying prefab puff pastry? What happened to being natural, man? To be totally honest, I think they booted him because that hair would have the health department shutting down the kitchen.

With the hippie gone and Sosa batting two-for-two, it's safe to say that the next episode will be appetizing.

-- Krista Simmons

Follow me on Twitter @kristasimmons

Photo: Jefferson Memorial. Credit: Khue Bui / Associated Press