Back for its fifth season, Bravo's Top Chef has a hotbed locale in New York City, the restaurant capital of the U.S. As co-host Padma Lakshmi points out in the first episode, there are 650,000 people working in the industry there -- in other words, a city about the size of Baltimore within the Big Apple.

Back for its fifth season, Bravo's Top Chef has a hotbed locale in New York City, the restaurant capital of the U.S. As co-host Padma Lakshmi points out in the first episode, there are 650,000 people working in the industry there -- in other words, a city about the size of Baltimore within the Big Apple.

A handful of contestants from NYC are among the 17 that open the season, and the city's nickname and neighborhoods inspire the challenges in the premiere, which weeds two from the herd.

Overall it's an interesting group, a continuation of the solid casting in all of Bravo's creative reality competitions and refreshingly free of opening lines like, "I didn't come here to make friends." And they've got some gorgeous surroundings: a subway-style tiled kitchen and a high-rise Manhattan apartment with a balcony to die for.

"Top Chef New York"

Premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, Bravo

Grade: B+

As in seasons past, a lot of the contestants play it safe in the first episode, making it hard to spot the standouts. Still, you might want to keep an eye on early favorite Leah, one of the New Yorkers, and Finnish chef Stefan, whose skills better keep up with his ego.