“Top Chef” will be back for another season starting June 16 on Bravo, this time set in Washington, D.C. I’m sure a lot of fans will be pleased to know that award-winning chef and all-around suave dude Eric Ripert will be joining the show as a regular guest judge. (Hmmm, wonder if that means Toby Young is gone? If so, that’s a huge step up.) This season the 17 competing chefs will cook for Nancy Pelosi and Buzz Aldrin (among many others), man the concession stands at Nationals stadium and cook inside CIA headquarters.
The field looks almost a strong as last season’s powerhouse lineup of cheftestants. This group seems slightly older, more established (lots of chef/owners among them) but not quite as diverse culinary specialties. Interestingly, it’s an East Coast-heavy cast, with just five chefs from the West (2 L.A., 2 Colorado, 1 Vegas).
Here’s the first look at the 17 cheftestants:
Tracey Bloom, 33, executive chef at Table 1280 in Atlanta. She’s big in the Atlanta culinary scene and was named one of the top 25 chefs in Atlanta in 2008.
Timothy Dean, 39, owner/chef of Prime Steak House in Baltimore. He worked his way up from a dishwasher and has worked with a slew of notable chefs. He appears to be a seafood whiz.
Tiffany Derry, 26, executive chef a Go Fish Ocean Club in Dallas. She’s supposed to bring a “Don’t Mess With Texas” attitude, whatever that means, and specializes in seafood.
Tamesha Warren, 24, sous chef at The Oval Room, Washington D.C. Born and raised in Barbados, she’s into molecular gastronomy and modern cuisine.
Stephen Hopcraft, 40, executive chef at Seablue at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He’s worked alongside some with big-time chefs with Bay Area ties: Michael Minna, Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter. He’s supposed to be a bit of a loudmouth. He also appeared in Food Network’s “Chefs vs. City” last year in Las Vegas.
Lynne Gigliotti, 51, assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of America. She’s looking to become only the second woman to be named Certified Master Chef. Her ran award-winning restaurants in Atlanta before turning to teaching.
Kevin Sbraga, 31, executive chef at Rat’s at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, N.J. He was named among the top 10 chefs in Philadelphia in 2007 while working with now-“Iron Chef” Jose Garces, and has been honored by the Bocuse d’Or USA. He sounds loud and cocky.
Kenny Gilbert, 36, owner of two restaurant groups in Colorado. He was the first black chef to run a Ritz-Carlton restaurant, can cook pretty much any and cuisine and sounds super intense. He specializes in “haute alpine cuisine.”
Kelly Liken, 33, chef/owner of two restaurants in Colorado. Named one of the country’s best up-and-coming female chefs, she specializes in food with locally sourced organic ingredients. She appeared on a recent “Iron Chef.”
John Somerville, 42, chef de cuisine at The Lark outside Detroit. He’s gotten two James Beard nominations and been named one of Detroit’s best chefs. He wins the award for worst hair: dreadlocks on a white guy never look good.
Jacqueline Lombard, 33, private chef and caterer based in Brooklyn. She’s the dining and wine editor at the hipster-centric NYHerald.com. She boasts of all-organic, all-mobile food, and it a wine pairings expert.
Ed Cotton, 32, executive chef at Plein Sud in New York. He worked many years with legendary chefs Todd English and Eric Bouloud.
Arnold Myint, 32, chef/owner of Cha Chah in Nashville. A former professional figure skater, he’s also a mixologist and sounds like a, shall we say, “colorful” personality. (He does a little cross-dressing.)
Angelo Sosa, 35, chef/owner of Xie Xie in Durham, Conn. You want fusion? He’s half Dominican, half Italian, specializes in Asian cuisine and has some serious French cooking chops.
Andrea Curto-Randazzo, 39, chef/owner of Talula in Miami. She’s been named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs and her restaurant has won raves from the New York Times.
Amanda Baumgarten, 27, sous chef at Ford’s Filling Station in Los Angeles. She’s a French-trained chef and experienced butcher.
Alex Reznik, 33, executive chef at Cafe Was in Hollywood. He likes to blend local ingredients with classic French techniques.