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Launches & Releases: Top Chef 2 Premieres Tonight

Bravo's second season of Top Chef premieres tonight (Bravo, 11 PM), marking the shift from fashion (Project Runway has its finale tonight) to food for Bravo reality junkies. If rough-cuts of the first episode are any indication, this season is a new and improved version of last season, with a new host, Padma Lakshmi, and the return of season one champ Harold Dieterle, this time as a guest judge. Nice Guy Colicchio and Gail Simmons (pictured) return to the judges' table as well, of course.

Also, this season there are a whopping four NY area contestants. The full list of wannabes:

Elia L. Aboumrad - 23 - Las Vegas, NV
Otto Borsich - 46 - Las Vegas, NV
Marisa Churchill - 28 - San Francisco, CA
Clifford Crooks - 28 - West Caldwell, NJ
Carlos Fernandez - 36 - Fort Lauderdale, FL
Betty Fraser - 44 - Los Angeles, CA
Mia Gaines - 32 - Oakdale, CA
Ilan Hall - 24 - New York, NY
Michael Midgley - 28 - Stockton, CA
Josie Smith-Malave - 31 - Brooklyn, NY
Emily Sprissler - 30 - Las Vegas, NV
Suyai Steinhauer - 29 - New York, NY
Sam Talbot - 28 - New York, NY
Frank Terzoli - 39 - San Diego, CA
Marcel Vigneron - 26 - Las Vegas, NV
You'll note the NY favorite is Sam Talbot who's slated to open a restaurant this fall anyway. Talbot, in fact, wastes no time at all off the starting block, winning the first quick fire challenge, a "flambe dish." (Oops. Spoiler alert.) It's unclear whether his being from NY helped him secure immunity, though it couldn't have hurt that Dieterle, also a NYer, judged the challenge.

One last casting note: look out for this season's douchebag, Marcel Vigneron of Las Vegas. If you thought Steven was a bit much, you'll warm to Marcel right quick.

Ultimately, those who liked season one will will like this one, too. If you didn't like season one, save for some new characters there isn't much to see here.
· Top Chef Season 2 [Bravo]

Sidebar memo to the lovely Gail Simmons: Have Bravo take down this photo asap.