‘Top Chef: New Orleans’ premiere review: Swamp people

What's next? -Top Chef” is back in New Orleans, and it did not take long at all for the competition to get switched into high gear. There was no quickfire for any of the chefs to use as a way to get their heads on straight. Instead, it was a dive right into the competition, and an elimination challenge that required a little bit of turtle power in order to pull off effectively. On “Duck Dynasty” last night, Phil was catching turtles. On “Top Chef,” they were cooking them … and alligator … and frog. This was a Cajun food lover’s paradise.

Before we get into some quick opinions on some of the contestants, let’s start with the fact that there are a ton of familiar faces this season. You have a guy in Bene Bartolatta who was Odette’s Fada’s sous chef on “Top Chef Masters” this past season, and you also have two guys in Justin Devillier and Michael Sichel who were the winners of the “Padma’s Picks” web series. Just in order to get that extra icing on the cake here a little bit, you had Stephanie Cmar, who was sent away by Emeril Lagasse at the start of “Top Chef: Seattle.” Add to that chefs who have worked with David Burke and Wolfgang Puck, and this group is connected.

Now, we turn to the contestants, who we are still starting to get to know a little bit. It’s hard to speak much on food yet, so let’s go with personality.

Jason Cichonski – You are not a d-bag because someone voted you good-looking; you just act like one sometimes.

Nina Compton – Awesome woman from Saint Lucia who made curry in a swamp. This is a clear definition of someone being able to take the heat. Also, the winner of the first challenge.

Sara Johannes – Made the huge decision to actually turn alligator into Chinese food, and it worked even if there was an aggressive amount of spice to it.

Janine Booth – Aussie chef saying she wants to be thought of for more than just her looks, only for the show to later objectify her by having some of the men talk about her cooking in shorts.

Carlos Gaytan – Our favorite of the guys right now, mostly because he’s got a crazy story of starting with nothing as an illegal immigrant, and working his way up all the way from a dishwater to a chef of a popular restaurant.

The first eliminated chef this season was Ramon Bojorquez, a guy who seemed like, with his fighting experience in Thailand, could have been perfect for a spot in “The Hangover: Part II” as someone who punches Ed Helms in the face. His dish was apparently not terrible, but it fell victim to not having enough flavor after his dashi was watered down with ice.

Overall, what did you think about the “Top Chef: New Orleans” premiere, and do you think that the right person went home? Sound off in the comment box below! Meanwhile, click here if you want to read some more news related to the show, including the latest from the “Padma’s Picks” webseries that brought Justin and Michael onto this season.

Photo: Bravo

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!