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Howell chef James Rigato was rarely seen or heard in the season premiere of "Top Chef." The owner and operator of the Root Restaurant & Bar in White Lake Township is one of 16 contestants on season 12 of Bravo's popular cooking competition.

Instead, it was another Michigan native who grabbed the spotlight. Chef Mei Lin of Dearborn, who now cooks at Ink restaurant in Los Angeles, won the season's first major challenge. The chefs were tasked with serving 250 people at a Top Chef food festival in Boston, where they were showcased with cooking celebrities like Todd English and Ming Tsai.

Lin, who once worked at Michael Symon's Roast according to her Bravo bio, impressed the judges with her congee dish, a rice porridge.

The challenge proved too tough for Brooklyn's Michael Patlazhan. He was eliminated from the show for his fishy soup, which judges said reminded them of cereal. Washington, D.C., chef George Pagonis was also sent home on the premiere episode. He lost the first quick fire challenge less than 30 minutes into the show.

Rigato wasn't the only contestant who didn't get much screen time on Wednesday night. Chefs Melissa King of L.A. and Chicago's Rebecca LaMalfa also blended into the background for the first episode, but there is still a whole season ahead.

"Top Chef" continues Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

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