'Top Chef Masters'

Missy and Sue, on the season four premiere of "Top Chef Masters." Tragedy is about to strike Missy, btw. (Bravo)

Editor's note: We are thrilled to welcome Mary Alice of Charm City Cakes as our recapper for the new season of "Top Chef Masters." We think it's a sin that she doesn't have her own Wikipedia page. But she does have a fan page. Take it away, Mary.

"Top Chef Masters" season 4 is off! The chef-testants are in Vegas this time around, each vying for 100K to donate to their charity of choice.

Curtis Stone is back with his Outback Steakhouse voice to introduce us to this season's contestants, which feature many repeat competitors and heavy hitters.

This season's judges include Saveur's James Oseland and Gilt Taste's Ruth Reichl.

The usual fanfare opening montage ensues -- lots of Vegas B-roll, yelling, overwrought range fires and mad chopping.

As is typical in the first episode of any competitive reality show, we get to see a couple of contestants up close and personal, and the rest fly by in a blur.

First intro is the ever sunny and fabulous Chef Art Smith, who is back for his second time around on TCM --- and he's half the man he used to be. Literally.

The guy has lost 120 pounds. He looks amazing and hasn't lost an ounce of his sparkle. The editing team clearly loves him, as he is heavily featured in this episode (which is totally okay, as he's hilarious).

Thierry Rautureau, who was cut rather early on his last time on TCM, is up next. From the looks of things, he's the sassy Frenchmen.

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier are partners in business at their restaurant Arrows and partners in life -- they've been together for over two decades.

I must agree with Art Smith in that they look like they could be brothers. Or perhaps the middle aged version of '90s rockers Nelson.

The rest of the chefs are introduced rapidly: Patricia Yeo, Takashi Tagihashi, Sue Torres, Missy Robbins, Debbie Gold, Lorena Garcia, Chris Cosentino, and Kerry Hefferman (who for some reason is constantly flashing incredulous looks on camera). 

As each chef enters the kitchen the rest show genuine thrill/surprise as they discover who their competition is. While their reactions seem real I do have to wonder -- did they REALLY not know who else would be competing? Really?

In walks our host, Curtis Stone, looking for all the world like a second hand blackjack dealer in his odd vest ensemble. But he's adorable and Australian so he pulls it off.

We are a go with the first quickfire: Each chef must pick a partner and then a game of culinary blackjack takes place. Each pair gets an ingredient card placed down, and then another card on top. They must produce a dish with both ingredients.

All of the pairings actually seem quite easy (garlic and steak? duck and peaches?) so I'm not too worried about anyone at this point. [Confidential to the graphic designer who chose the typeface for the playing cards: The '80s called. They want their font back]. Also, I learned that Langoustine is a name for large, mutant crawfish.

The chefs will be cooking for three professional Vegas card dealers. Fifteen minutes of running and yelling ensue. Bravo fills the time by having some of the chefs (in very bad voice over dubs) talk about the charities they are playing for, which all sound like amazing organizations doing great work.

The Vegas dealers come in and chow down on each dish -- and they're not afraid to criticize. Debbie Gold winces at their critique and owns up to the fact that hers was "an herbaceous dish."

I haven’t heard that turn of phrase since sophomore year in the dorm room. In the end, Chris and Patricia take the Quickfire with their beef and catfish combo, winning 5K each for the Michael J. FoxFoundation and Heifer International