I've owned all the Top Chef seasons, since practically the 1st day each episode was available. Yeah, I'm addicted to the show. The combination of interesting/exciting cooking challenges and the meshing of different cooking styles & backgrounds is, as has been shown by this show's success, a winning one. Up through Season 7, I loved this show. After that, I've grown weary of the producers' ongoing tweaking of a format that already worked & the escalation of drama/conflict/personality b.s. to the point where I'm always fast forwarding through that stuff to get to the cooking challenges. I also skip some of the idiotic challenges that happened in later seasons, such as when the finalists have to chip away at ice to get their ingredients in the Texas season (not something that would happen in most normal kitchens, to say the least; not a realistic test of anything other than endurance & desperation). Ugh.
To Season 1: I love everything about this season. Other than Season 6, which featured an extraordinary amount & level of talent, it seems to me that the producers purposefully cast a mix of "players" (chefs) with diverse backgrounds, some of which don't even make sense in the same kitchen together (there's always a home - or at least home-y cook, caterer, &/or health-oriented cook, for instance, next to someone who's into molecular gastronomy or just high echelon, extensively trained cooking). So I don't have any trouble with the backgrounds & abilities of the cooks on Season 1. If there are a couple of more unseasoned/untrained cooks on Season 1, their presence makes it easier for me to identify, to imagine "what would I do...". And I feel that Andrea Beaman is the most likeable of all the home/health-oriented/caterer-types that have been on the show - she's quietly dignified & good-humored - a pleasure to watch.
I also love the show because it feels like a trip to San Francisco: atmospheric & authentic. Similarly - & this may seem odd to anyone who hasn't watched Tales of the City, the great miniseries PBS made from Armistead Maupin's books about San Francisco - I enjoy Katie Lee as host/judge. She reminds me of the socialite types in Tales of the City as well as the girlishness of Mary Ann Singleton's character. She's lovely to watch, wears great outfits, & seems sincerely engaged in the whole process. For me, she works fine most of the time (the sole exception being a couple of rather shocking instances at judges' table wherein she can seem a bit vicious/vindictive).
But the challenges are just about as varied as those of any other season. I don't come away being unable to tolerate anyone or anything, as occurs with some of the more annoying/hateful personalities that make some of the subsequent seasons, or at least episodes, unwatchable for me (such as the Texas season, when three chefs are so horrible to Beverly, & such unattractive people themselves, I simply can't watch those episodes again).
Top Chef Season 1 is charming. For me, it has strong replay value - I just wait a year or two between going back to it.