'Top Chef' adds Eric Ripert to the judges' table | EW.com

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'Top Chef' adds Eric Ripert to the judges' table

Eric-Ripert

Eric-RipertImage Credit: Rob Kim/Retna LtdI know that Top Chef: Masters is currently airing on Bravo, but, in my opinion, it just doesn’t compare to the original. (I’d much rather see someone who could actually benefit from winning the competition than someone who has already established him or herself in the food world.) For those of you who have been conducting your own quickfire challenges each morning to make up for the lack of Top Chef, the wait will soon be over: Top Chef: Washington D.C. premieres on June 16!

Accomplished chef Eric Ripert will be joining Padma, Gail, and recent James Beard Award-winner Tom Colicchio at the judges’ table for seventh season. No stranger to the nation’s capital, Ripert got his start in the States at Jean Louis at the Watergate Hotel, before moving on to Le Bernardin in New York City (where he would become a mentor to season six finalist Jen “bitch in the kitchen” Carroll). A frequent guest judge, Ripert is a more than deserving choice, but I have to say I’ll miss Toby Young’s snark when eating something particularly repugnant.

According to Bravo, season seven “captures the varied tastes of Washington D.C.” and will feature appearances by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Aaron Schock, Senator Mark Warner, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, and Buzz Aldrin (who is certainly having a great 2010!).

While these are all D.C.-centric people, are you excited about seeing them be on the show? Part of the fun of Top Chef is meeting critically acclaimed food gods (few of whom I actually recognize) and watching as the cheftestants geek out over seeing them in the flesh…and then freak out over having to cook for them. At the same time, a little star power doesn’t hurt (remember Natalie Portman’s dinner party last season?), but will Nancy Pelosi really be that big of a draw for audiences? And what do politicians like to eat anyway?

Challenges are said to include trips to the Washington Nationals stadium (those poor cheftestants) and the CIA headquarters. Among the 17 cheftestants, who range from 24- to 51-years-old, two have followed in Ripert’s footsteps with stints at Jean Louis at the Watergate, while one teaches at the Culinary Institute of America. (I wonder how she’ll take criticism?) Based on these short bios, my early pick for fan favorite (or least favorite?) is Kevin Sbraga, the self-proclaimed “Barack Obama of the cooking game.” (Nice tie-in to the show’s location.)

What do you think PopWatchers? Can you contain your excitement for the season premiere? Have you been casually dropping in terms like “amuse-bouche” ever since Michael Voltaggio was crowned the season six champ?

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