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Top Chef Season 16 Episode 1

Top Chef Season 16 Episode 1 – The Fastest 2 Minutes in Cooking

Top Chef is back!  This show has this magical way of always popping up when I am ready for it.  A season ends, I mourn for a week, and then life goes on.  Eventually, Tom and Padma start creeping back in my head – when is the new season going to start? Where are they cooking this time? Usually it is at that point that a date is announced.  Me and Top Chef are just in sync like that.  Welcome to Kentucky.


Top Chef never takes much time introducing the chefs.  Intros are peppered into the first couple of episodes and we learn more about chefs over time.  The first episode always feels chaotic – you don’t know who anybody is or who to root for.

The chefs start the competition at Churchill Downs and are welcomed by Tom and Padma.  They explain the first Quickfire: Split into 5 teams of 3 and make a dish with the 20 ingredients at your station.  The caveat is you only have two minutes to prepare your mise en place and use knives.  After that, knives are gone and the chefs have 20 minutes to prepare their meal.

I was surprised at how quickly the chefs came together and how well they worked with each other, even though there was trepidation working with complete strangers.

Quickfire Results

Tom was extremely impressed by the food from the Quickfire and hopes that this is a harbinger for the rest of the season.  Though there were two teams at the bottom, there were no bad dishes.  The Yellow Team (Brian, Michelle & David) and The White Team (Eddie, Kevin & Natalie) had dishes with the most problems. 

The Blue Team (Adrienne, Nini & Brandon) are in the middle, and it is The Red Team (Caitlin, Eric & Kelsey) & The Green Team (Justin, Pablo & Sarah) who are the judges favorites.  In the end, The Green Team, who had to get rid of their steak because of lack of knives and replace it with a poached egg, came out victorious.  All three will be going to the 2019 Kentucky Derby!

Elimination Challenge

For the Elimination Challenge the Chefs will be cooking for 200 people at the Top Chef Kentucky Derby Party.  They will stay in their teams of three, but now they are competing against each other.  Each team of three will have a Win, Place and a Show. All of the chefs who place in show will be up for elimination.  I actually love this twist of going from working together to competing against each other because it is exactly how this competition goes.

First, to Whole Foods!  $350 to serve everyone.  I love the first trip to the store of the season.  Everyone is bumping into each other and figuring out how to budget.  After that, the chefs go to the Top Chef Kitchen for the first time.  Bonus for bourbon hanging on the wall.

After the chefs prepare the first day, they head off to the Top Chef house,  and it looks pretty amazing – not that they will get to spend much time in it.  But they will be “clean-butted” this season.

The next day the Cheftestants have an hour to set up before The Judges and a crowd of 200 descend on them.  There are a lot of hats.

(Photo by: Michael Hickey/Bravo)

Elimination Challenge Top 

The Cheftestants presented their dishes with varying degrees of success, as always.  The top dishes up for a win are Kelsey’s deviled eggs, Natalie’s ceviche curry, Nini’s blackened catfish and Vietnamese cabbage, David’s potato porcini soup, and Pablo’s tilapia crudo.  Kelsey nailed the challenge by putting up a dish that was good party food and representative of the South.  Natalie’s ceviche and David’s potato porcini soup (which he made as a back up to his gnocchi), blew the judges away, but Nini’s dish seemed to win by default in a lackluster group.

Elimination Challenge Bottom

The dishes at the bottom were Caitlin’s biscuit tomato cobbler, Kevin’s beet and ricotta salad, Adrienne’s fettuccine with arugula pesto, Brian’s spicy Thai country ribs, and Sarah’s bourbon braised pork belly.  Kevin’s beet salad was just too easy, Adrienne’s fettuccine was not the right texture, Caitlin’s biscuits were a soggy nightmare, Brian’s ribs were undercooked AND he argued with the judges, and Sarah had a good dish that really just went up against some better ones.

Judge’s Table

Tom is really excited about the food he has eaten and thinks this is going to be a great season.  

First, the good news.  Out of the five chefs who won, the judges narrowed it down to their top three: Natalie, Pablo and David.  While Pablo and David had great dishes, it was Natalie who pulled out the win for her Curry Halibut Ceviche!

At the bottom, the judges selected Caitlin, Kevin and Adrienne.  Though there were problems with every dish, it was Caitlin’s biscuits that couldn’t be forgiven.  Someone has to be the first to leave in every season.  See you in Last Chance Kitchen!

Random Thoughts, Observations & Quotes

Brandon Rosen doesn’t want to portrayed as the cocky guy.  Good luck.

I am loving Sara  – “Kelsey and I are basically the same person, she just has a smaller ass and fake blonde hair.” 

“Hands up Knives Down!” As with last season, I will be calling this ridiculous directive out every time Padma says it.

“Nobody here is the weakest link.” – Maybe Caitlin is.

Brandon is bossing everyone around.  This guy is going to be a problem for people.

Loving the little factoids explaining what the chefs are cooking at the bottom of the screen.

Vietnamese Cajun fusion is really popular in the South right now, so I think it will be interesting to see what Nini does as a Vietnamese refugee hailing from New Orleans.

Justin says his “body is about 60% bourbon, 20% pot and about 40% fried food.  And a whole lot of sexy.” It’s a good thing you can cook Justin, because you are not a mathematician. 

I have made pimento cheese deviled eggs, and they are delicious.  But if I have made them, should they be on Top Chef?

I wish I was in that shower right now.  This may be the most awesome Top Chef house yet.

“Brandon has a pompadour and I don’t like that.  I’m supposed to be the hair.” – Brian

Are Minnesotans considered Yankees?

Kelsey won us over misplacing her salad.  Haven’t we all done that?

Of course Graham has those damn glasses, hat and bow tie.  I am really missing Gail already.

I could have made Kevin’s salad.  Not Top Chef caliber.

Tom’s face when tasting David’s dish scared the crap out of me – I don’t know how he survived it!  Luckily Tom loved his dish.

I’ve never seen Tom stumped on what he was eating before like he was with David’s dish.

“Do you really need flour to make gnocchi?”  No seriously, do you?

“Welcome to Top Chef” –  in Tom’s most sarcastic voice.

Kevin was in the bottom for both the challenge and the Quickfire.  

This season looks super fun!  Lots of fighting, drinking and cooking in Kentucky.

Here at Really Into This, we love the Uproxx Top Chef Power Rankings and the Pack Your Knives podcast that drafts their own teams.  Be sure to check them out.

I am a Texan living in California with my husband Mark, my best pup Ziggy, and our two cats Marilyn and Goldie. I love reading, cooking, binge-watching great tv shows and staying up too late talking to my friends.

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