ChefTEXANs

“Top Chef’ comes (finally) to Texas … but you’ll have to wait to see Big D

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REMEMBER THE A AL MODE | Simmons, Lakshmi and Colicchio feed a mega-sized ‘Top Chef: Texas.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It’s been apparent to devoted viewers of Top Chef over the years that Texans know how to cook — especially those from Dallas. Right now, former all-stars Tiffany Derry, Tre Wilcox and Casey Thompson all have busy restaurants across the Metroplex, and other Lone Star competitors have made a mark. So it was with a collective “It’s about time!” when we learned Season 9 would be set in Texas.

But aside from being in Texas, there are few chefs from Texas in Top Chef: Texas, premiering Nov. 2. That means just as much attitude, but fewer bragging rights.

Well, almost.

“It’s Texas; they made it bigger,” one of the cheftestants says, amazed when 29 competitors arrive at The Alamo in episode 1. Of course, just because it starts off big doesn’t mean it will stay that way; in the Texas-sized two-part premiere, 14 chefs get eliminated on the way to a lean 15 cooks.

That’s a lot of personalities to juggle in a short time, and with so many chefs, you get few pings with the gaydar to pick out family, but the (few) gays stand out. Janine, despite her early pronoun-neutral coyness, is a fun chef with a good story, while Ty-Lor’s otterish prissiness gives a dash of fabulousness to the proceeding.

The first chef to make an impression, though, is Tyler, who stakes a claim as an early asshole; fortunately, we don’t need to spend much time with him. Some of the others show promise, but do they withstand the buds of Tom Colicchio, Padme Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and new judges Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Atcheson (neither of whom added much to the premiere)? Well, that’s the fun.

If you already like the show, the Texas setting is a plus, and if you don’t … well, shots of the Riverwalk probably won’t change your mind, or make you wanna see it anymore than the slew of other Texas-set reality series littering the airwaves. But it just might.

In addition to Ty-Lor, Chuy Valencia was on my radar as a talented cutie to watch, but for now, we’re confined to the kitchens of San Antonio. The show hits Austin, too, before ending the season in Dallas, so if you’re looking for local landmarks, you’ll have to wait ‘til after Thanksgiving.
Seems like a good idea. We’ll be thinking more about food by then.

Premieres Wednesday on Bravo at 9 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas