Joshua David Stein is back briefly to talk about Bravo's Top Chef which premiered its fourth season last night. Last night marked the recommencement of the emotional odyssey that characterizes watching Top Chef. It was an hour of absurdity, of passion, of lust/caution. Mostly though it felt like coming home. Despite the change in venue and of proper names, it seems like we've seen all these contestants before. We have the mohawked lesbian. Last season she was named Sandee.This season she's named Jennifer, though Richard gives her a good run for her money in terms of dykey crappy hairstyles. Hung and Ilan have been combined into Dale, who is both Asian and smug. Erik, chrome-domed and prone to silver rings, is the new Howie; Spike, bluff and handsome, is the new CJ and Stephanie, the winner or last night's challenge, is the new Lia. Also they kicked off the hottest girl first. Of course she deserved it. Mopey, crappy, cute.So what's new? A couple of things, including an even more revealing Padma shot, after the jump.

First of all, Padma Lakshmi continues, bizarrely, to become even more winsome. By the end of last season, her beauty already seemed to approach absurd. And splitting with Salman has only made her even more beautiful. At this point it's hardly even enjoyable to see her. It's rapturous, of course, but you get the feeling this is what dogs feel like when they chase sunbeams. Only, I want to sleep with the sunbeam. Also, the first shot of that scar! What a sight for sore eyes.

Second of all, if the first three minutes of Top Chef Chicago is to be any indicator of the rest of the season, we are in for some heavy heavy product placement. Remind me again what exactly Pizzeria Uno has to do with culinary anything? We all knew product placement was coming but it arrived with such alacrity and ferocity that it took me, at least, off guard. I thought initially we had been unwittingly taken to commercial break in a clever way. In a way we had. But in another way we had just been had.

Thirdly, motherfuckers! People cuss so much on this new season it is kind of amazing. Of especially dirty mouth and charming cadence is Andrew. He looks like a cross between me and Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. He got fucked by Richard, he of mohawk and smoked mayonnaise. Every talking head interview with him read like a scene from Scarface. He's in the final three for sure.

Other observations include: Rocco DiSpirito's face gets fewer wrinkles and more injections day-by-day. Anthony Bourdain's pants are really tight which is a wonderful thing. Erik made the ugliest scat-implying soufflé ever. And I'm pretty certain, though it's too early to tell and I'm interested in what you think, that the final three will be Jennifer (the Sapphic San Fran chef); Andrew and Richard.