In the episode, competitors were challenged to prepare something that represented who they were, and where they were from. Fleming’s Vietnamese and Italian-inspired noodle dish was a hit with Emeril Lagasse, but failed to impress hosts Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. Fleming tried to assert himself as the intellectual of the bunch from the start. “My parents were academics,” he said. “We traveled all the time, we constantly cooked and were very scientific with each dish.” He also dropped phrases like “gustatory aesthetics” and the “cultural manifestation of cuisine.” All the highbrow talk didn’t help his cooking and he struggled from the beginning, failing a mise-en-place race, which disqualified him from a challenge that could have granted him immunity.
The other two Washington chefs – Marjorie Meek-Bradley (Ripple, Roofers Union) and Kwame Onwuachi of the upcoming the Shaw Bijou – mostly flew under the radar in the premiere. In the elimination challenge, Meek-Bradley’s lamb tartar and Onwuachi’s pork-pineapple dish both received positive feedback from the judges, but not enough to land them in the top three. Both chefs seemed more humble than many of their competitors—especially Fleming. “Ten years ago I was a sixteen year old kid in the Bronx getting in trouble in school,” Onwuachi said. “Now I’m about to start my own restaurant and I’m on Top Chef. In my wildest dreams I could never have thought that would happen.”
Meek-Bradley was previously chef de cuisine for restaurateur Mike Isabella, a repeat Top Chef contestant. Before heading out, Fleming had harsh words for Isabella, calling his cooking “one of the worst bastardizations of Italian food in the history of the world.” Isabella got thefinal word on Twitter.
@chefgfleming karma is a bitch
— Mike Isabella (@MikeIsabellaDC) December 3, 2015
The second part of the season premiere airs tonight at 10pm.