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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Heart and balls: 'Top Chef' Las Vegas, episode 1

click to enlarge GO TEAM! Kevin Gillespie wins the first elimination challenge
  • GO TEAM! Kevin Gillespie wins the first elimination challenge

Score one for Atlanta!

In a sea of tattoos, piercings, and un-shucked clams on last night's debut of “Top Chef Las Vegas” (at first, I thought I might have accidentally been watching a new episode of “LA Ink”), Atlanta's three resident cheftestants managed to make quite a splash. Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill, who came off with an odd mixture of arrogance and good guy charm, won the season's first elimination challenge for his procrastination-inspired arctic char and turnip salsa verde, winning over guest judge celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and tough guy Tom Colicchio.

Kevin was definitely the star of the evening, but my heart already lies with Hector whose accent and cooking motto (“I cook with heart and balls”) are setting him up to be this season's gentle giant. I was a fan the minute he complemented Padma without just calling her hot, although I'll admit I'm still wrapping my head around the deep fried steak dish.

As for Eli, Atlanta's third representative, I'm pegging him as this season's class clown. His commentary (“I cook 'cause I'm a fat kid”) and faux-cocky attitude (which appears to be about as tough as his faux hawk) are funny without going the way of, say, "Top Chef" New York's Stephan. Stephan's honor I'll reserve for Michael Isabella, whose own cocky attitude and sexist comments put him as the prime suspect for season villain. Preeti may not have been able to shuck clams, but she does know what seitan is — take that, Jersey boy!

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