I’d all but given up on Top Chef after the Las Vegas season. The chefs were so skilled, the personalities so contradictory, the host city so freaking fabulous, I shut off the TV after Michael Voltaggio’s big win thinking, That’s it. That was as good as it gets. So Washington, D.C., came and went without me taking much notice. I tuned in for the Just Desserts premiere and then promptly tuned out, and it seemed my love affair with the Bravo culinary competition had finally come to a close … until I read a recent press release with those fateful words: All-Stars.
And I’m back. In football, all-star games are a giant waste of who-even-cares time, but in the alternate universe that is competitive reality television, all-star seasons are a chance at redemption for almost-winners hoping to finally make good. Top Chef All-Stars is packed with talented chefs who didn’t take home the title, like the man on one of my favorite Weekly covers, Marcel Vigneron. The former Joël Robuchon and Company chef was equal parts mad scientist and petulant snob during his first shot on the show, and seemed to genuinely feel cheated by his second place finish to Ilan Hall, which makes giving him another shot at the title all the more exciting and potentially inflammatory.
And Vigneron’s not the only Vegas alum headed back to Bravo. Elia Aboumrad, also from Season 2 and Joël Robuchon, is going back on the chopping block, as is Stephen Asprinio, who worked as a sommelier at Caesars Palace before trying his luck during Top Chef’s first season. In total, 18 chef’testants will compete starting December 1 on All-Stars, with fierce Top Chef Las Vegas competitor Jennifer Carroll rounding out the chefs with explicit local ties.
Joining Padma, Tom and Gail at the judges table will be another familiar face, Anthony Bourdain, a Top Chef regular who will be a series judge this go-round. In my book, more Tony is a very good thing. But more than any individual chef or judge slated for a Bravo return, it’s the chef’testants’ cumulative angst that could make All-Stars a winter must-watch. No matter who wins, Top Chef has won me over once again. Come December, I’ll be watching.