TV Alert: “Top Chef” returns tonight with all-stars and chefbians

Padma, Padma, Padma. I mean, hey guys, Top Chef is back tonight. But this isn’t just any Top Chef, this is Top Chef All-Stars. That means they’ve already separate the wheat from the chaff for us and all we are left with is 18 of the best (or just most brazen) cheftestants who failed to take home the top prize from past season. The crop includes two chefbians: lesbian chef Jamie Lauren from Season 5 and bisexual chef Tiffani Faison from Season 1.

The dream team of also-rans features other favorites from past seasons like Hootie Hoo herself Carla Hall, out chef Dale Levitski, Fabio Viviani, Richard Blais and Casey Thompson. Marcel “The Wolverine Head” Vigneron, Spike “The Asshat” Mendelsohn and Mike “The Chauvinist Pig” Isabella are also returning. Have strong feelings about some of these contestants? No, not me.

The eighth season of the Emmy-winning cooking contest takes place in New York City and will bring back host Padma Lakshmi, head judge chef Tom Colicchio and returning judge Gail Simmons. New this year will be guest judge Anthony Bourdain. Oh, boy, that’ll make things interesting. Bourdain does not hold back. This is gonna be a food fight, so grab a bib.

But back to our Team Rainbow members. Jamie, who recently moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco to head the Beechwood Restaurant, was picked for the show because producers knew she was well regarded. Executive producer Dan Cutforth told TV Guide:

When we were researched the line-up for Top Chef Masters, one of our researchers — who hadn’t worked on Top Chef before — recommended her because she’s so highly thought of in San Francisco. Of course, he didn’t realize that she’d already been on the show, but it’s proof that she probably should have gone farther than she did.

Tiffani was picked because she was almost the first Top Chef, but shot herself in the foot by being too ambitious in the first season finale. And it doesn’t hurt that she was kind of a firecracker (read: hated) contestant in the kitchen. Executive producer Jane Lipsitz told TV Guide:

Some people gravitate toward that, others not so much — that kind of person is clearly great for the show.

So they’re like the yin-yang of chefbians: one beloved, one kind of the opposite. Though it could have been crazier, they could have picked Lisa Fernandes.

Top Chef All-Stars premieres at 10 p.m. tonight on Bravo. So, who are you rooting for? Team Rainbow? Hootie Nation? And, most important, are we all ready for our mmm, Padma, mmm? Also be sure to check back Thursday for your fresh, steaming Top Chef recaps.

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