Top Chef Texas Episode 1: Runnin’ and Gunnin’ For One of 16 Spots

Primal cuts of meat, a giant field of cheftestants, and Emeril Lagasse?  It must be time for Top Chef Texas, where Bravo will exploit every opportunity to leverage its “everything’s bigger” theme, and we’ll get to see Tom Colicchio in shitkickers way more often than we care to.

But enough with the introductions, let’s get straight into the first competition: one so Texas-sized that we’ll have to wait until next week for the final results.

We start with 29 chefs this time around, none of whom have faux-hawks. There’s a few tattoos here and there, but this season’s most notable fashion accessory is the headband.  Whatever they show up wearing, though, what the cheftestants ultimately want to wind up in is a Top Chef coat, but there are only 16 of those to go around. The 29 are split up into three groups for an initial elimination challenge, the first of which is pork: Group 1 has to prepare a dish using one cut of pig, and they get to choose from an assortment of parts. Some of them need to be butchered from the primal cuts, and a punk kid from Sacramento, Tyler Stone, seems to think that this will be an easy task even though he’s never done it before. Throw a steely-eyed Colicchio and a ticking clock into the mix, and you’re done before you even started. Like a cattle gun-wielding Anton Chigurh, Colicchio murders the doe-eyed mannequin-looking farm boy’s dreams before he can even put a pan on a burner in the G.E. Monogram Top Chef kitchen.

Also finished before starting is vegan chef Colin Patterson, whose unsteady hand and poor time management skills forces a poor plate presentation, and Emeril Lagasse—who is still working on that intense judge look—dismisses him without remorse. It’s not all bad news in the first round, however. A bunch of Chicago chefs—two from Moto (Chris Jones and Richie Farina), Spiaggia executive chef Sarah Gruenenberg, and Sable executive chef Heather Terhune—are given chef’s coats for showcasing their pieces of pig properly.

Group 2 is issued a different challenge: Prepare a dish using the same ingredient. Since it’s still early in the competition and these guys don’t even know whether they’ll be allowed to continue, cordiality rules, and a quick decision to use rabbit is made. Emeril is given a break to work on his “intense face,” and Gail tags in. Although they have just as many accolades as Group 1, Group 2 seems a bit shakier, but that might just be because they suck on camera.

Whatever the case, we’ve got the one Asian dude that is doing this whole thing to make his father proud. I have to digress here. Not that I have a great relationship with my pops, but if he disapproved of my career choice and I somehow wound up on TV, I definitely wouldn’t say, “Maybe now he’ll see that I’m successful.” Instead, I’d be like, “What’s up now, pops?  I’m on TV and you’re not.” Then I’d laugh like a villain and probably flash the West Side sign with both hands because I couldn’t flip him the bird on national television.

Anyhoo, Seattle’s Nina Vicente fails to get rabbit on her plate and has to pack her knives. Edward Lee (the guy with the daddy issues) and his butter poached rabbit, get a split decision. Because of this, he’s placed “on the bubble,” meaning he’ll get one more chance to cook alongside a few more split decisions from both Groups 1 and 2. With so many damn chefs, the hour runs out before Group 3 even steps into the kitchen, but we’re off to a decent start.

Some early observations and predictions for the season:

  1. Keith Rhodes, an ex-convict and strong, silent type, will lose it and threaten to cut somebody. Hopefully it’s Collichio.
  2. There’s a dude named “Chuy” (pronounced “chewy”) in the competition. That’s just plain awesome and I hope he goes far.  Bravo can really play the “young chef” card with him.
  3. Padma will be drunk the whole time.
  4. The guy that compared himself to Blais/Voltaggio will be sent home for copying one of their dishes.
  5. There’s also a dude named Ty-L?r, with an umlaut and everything.  Too bad his last name is Boring.
  6. No villain to report just yet.  I’m betting it will be the girl whose nerdy face doesn’t match up with all her tattoos.