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Slideshow: A Look Back at the First Episode of Top Chef

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Here's a look back at season one, episode one of Top Chef that aired March 8, 2006. It's really not that long ago, but after nine seasons, a lot of things have changed. For example, host Katie Lee Joel was ousted in favor of Padma Lakshmi in season two (also Katie Lee Joel is just Katie Lee now after splitting with Billy Joel). But a lot of things haven't changed: stunningly Gail Simmons doesn't appear to have aged at all (is she an immortal vampire???) and Tom Colicchio was just as bald back then.

In the intro, Colicchio explains his qualifications to be the head judge (and makes some goofy faces). "I've been cooking for about 25 years, received three stars by the age of 26, I'm a recipient of five James Beard Awards," said Colicchio. "So yeah, I think that qualifies me to be a judge here." From this one episode, Bravo has expanded the Top Chef franchise into international editions, pop-up restaurants, and even a cruise.

Above the original cheftestapants and judges. Unsurprisingly, everyone looks so young here. Much like Top Chef spinoffs, the ravages of time are inevitable. More slideshows, right this way:


The first Quickfire ever was to simply work the line at Hubert Keller's San Francisco restaurant Fleur de Lys. No stunts, no Muppets, no D-list "Bravolebrities." Just cook and plate food for 30 minutes. That is, unless Hubert Keller kicked you off for not keeping up, being shaky and nervous, having the wrong footwear, or sticking your finger in a sauce. Not many people made it.

Elimination Round

This was an era before HD, so the food pretty much looked garish and awful. But sometimes it actually was garish and awful, like the natural nutritionist Andrea Beaman's shrimp and vegetable stir-fry: "I'm bringing something to the competition that other people aren't bringing," threatens Beaman. "The ability to move your bowels... with vegetables." Also, don't miss the slide of Bravo promoting something called "Top Chef text messages."

Data points: The first person ever to be kicked off of Top Chef was the Irishman Ken Lee; the first person to win a Quickfire was Lee Anne Wong; and the first person to win an Elimination Round was Harold Dieterle (he went on to win the whole thing). Season ten of Top Chef starts in two weeks, are you ready?

· All Top Chef Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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