Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Season 9 Episode 1 Recap: Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Top Chef Season 9 Episode 1 Recap: Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio

On the Premier of Top Chef Season 9, 29 chefs compete for one spot out of 16 that will be allowed to continue to compete across the state of Texas. Hosted by Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef: Texas will be judged by Head Judge Tom Colicchio, Food and Wine Magazine’s Gail Simmons, Top Chef Master’s Hugh Acheson, and introduced as Culinary Legend, Emeril Lagasse.

The prize for this season: a feature in Food and Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food and Wine in Classic in Aspen, and a comfy $125,000 provided by Healthy Choice… and oh yeah, the title of Top Chef.

On to the Top Chef: Texas Episode 1 Recap: Everything’s Bigger in Texas…

The first episode begins by showing typical scenes from texas, including (my personal favorite), a “don’t mess with Texas” sign. Season 9 begins at the Alamo in San Antonio.

Top Chef Season 9 Chef Contestants
After each contestant briefly introduced themselves, the challenge was given. The 29 contestants were to split up into 3 groups, and as a group, were to be given a challenge.

The first challenge was for each individual to prepare a dish using one cut of a pig. The group’s challenge was to make a feast using an entire pig. The first group was going to be judged by Tom, Emeril, and Padma. During the one hour to prepare and cook, Emeril and Tom walked around the kitchen judging cooking and butchering techniques. The entire group had to decide by themselves how to split the pig. Chefs that are good at butchering got to cut the pig. Tyler Stone, a personal chef who was cocky from the very beginning, claimed that he was an ace at butchering. Simon Pantet complained that he wasn’t that good and that Tyler was instead ruining the one piece he wanted. Tyler gave Tom a weak excuse that he doesn’t “usually work with pork.” Tyler got kicked out in the first 30 minutes of the competition (12 for the viewer). Too bad for Tyler, who said he wrote a book in 3 weeks. I don’t think I’ll be buying that book anytime soon!

Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Stone, Tom Colicchio
Grayson Schmitz had given Tyler the task of cutting her tenderloin so that she would have more time to prep. Unfortunately, her plan backfired and she got a measly, mutilated piece… that she had to stuff! Tom knew she got screwed by Tyler and taught her the lesson of never trusting a competitor. Colin Patterson, a vegan cook, ran out of time and rushed to pour the soup, making a huge mess. The judges didn’t even try his dish and kicked him out. Talk about a tough lesson in time management!

Padma explained the rules for selection. If the three judges agree, then either the competitor is kicked out, or stays. If they are undecided, the competitor stays in what she calls “the bubble.” That means competitors compete in one more challenge to earn a top chef coat.

Molly Brandt was the first contestant to go on the bubble. Her soup was good, but as Emeril said, “the cheeks (of the pig) need to be more prominent.” Grayson was the second in the bubble. In an almost cruel moment the judges stared down Ritchie Farina, a contestant who was already incredibly nervous (and is obviously shy-natured), like bullies in a playground. Personally, I thought this was an ugly moment in the episode.

The second group was judged by Tom, Padma, and Gail. The group had to prepare a dish with the same ingredient chosen out of a list. They all had to reach a consensus. They also had 1 hour to prep and cook. The group chose the rabbit as their ingredient.

Nina Vicente, when asked about her young age, reassured the audience that she could hang with the best. Unfortunately, she spaced out and lost track of time and didn’t have enough time to place the rabbit on the dish. She was the first contestant of the second group to be kicked out.

Keith Rhodes, possibly the biggest contestant in sheer physical size, confessed to have been arrested and have served time for dealing drugs. He also seemed be very well acquainted with the craft, being an expert at cooking with seafood, yet feeling perfectly comfortable with using rabbit as an ingredient. He went on to the final 16, and I was glad. He’s very mild-mannered and eloquent. That tells me that he’s a good person and smart. I hope he makes it far in this competition, so that he can show what a second chance can do for a person. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Edward Lee, a big time favorite, was told by the judges that he obviously had skills, but had to take them to the bubble.  

The next group is still to come in Episode 2, an episode that promises delicious food, drama, and blood… and no, this is not a Halloween remnant for me. A contestant actually cuts himself and bleeds all over the place. I’m sure the contestant, in true "Top Chef form", will be more concerned with the time wasted not trying to spill blood on the food than on his shanked body.


  1. I have to admit, this episode was a bit of a snooze for me. The challenge was cool, especially with so much on the line, but it's hard for me to invest in the chefs this early in the game—especially when 13 of them will be gone by next week!

  2. Well, I started to think that there was something slightly unhealthy about these shows. Too much tearing down, tearing apart of people. And food, for that matter.

  3. Well, it is dramatic... but isn't that a major part of the reason why we watch it? Also, I totally agree: hard to get emotionally involved. I still enjoy it though.