2010 was an up and down year for Top Chef. Coming off their best season yet in late 2009, the Bravo series started 2010 with a Washington DC edition. It was at once their kitschiest season to date, and one of the least interesting. The season did feature an engaging personality in Tiffany and an entertaining one in Angelo, as well as the hilarious "scandal" of the stolen pea puree (oh my!), but the contestants were generally less than interesting and the food generally less than impressive. To top it all off, the win went inexplicably to hot-headed Kevin (who was in the bottom no fewer than 5 times over the course of the season and won only 1 challenge). On a brighter note, even though Eric Ripert is not exactly an enthralling permanent judge, at least this season marked goodbye to the vile Toby Young.
Next up, the knives and fire came back... and so did a big pile of losers. Literally. It's All-Star season, so all the contestants are former losers. That means that we get some idiots that should have just stayed home (I'm talking to you Dale Talde, at least just stop talking), some popular contestants way out of their league (Fabio, Spike) and some great chefs who just flat-out didn't win first time around (Carla, Antonia, Angelo, Jen). We also get back my favourite contestant of all-time: Richard Blais (who HAS to win this thing). 5 weeks in there are 12 chefs left. Angelo's winning the win/judges' favourite count with 2 wins and 2 weeks in the top, though Richard's just one win behind after having been disqualified week 1 for going over time. Look for Jamie to go home next (she was my favourite in her season but I'm so disappointed with her in All-Stars) with Fabio close behind. Also I expect a dark horse like Carla or Mike to make their way to the finale against expectations. On the judging front, the permanent table is solid this season with Padma, Tom, Gail and the ever-entertaining Anthony Bourdain.
It may have had a rocky start in 2010 but the superb new spinoff and a solid-if-not-fabulous start to All-Stars has put the series in a good place for 2011.