The day is finally here. Top Chef: Texas premieres tonight, with all of the episodes of the cooking competition show's ninth season taking place in Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio. And a couple of Texans will be representing the home team; Paul Qui of Austin's Uchiko and Andrew Curran of Austin's 24 Diner are among the 29 "cheftestants."
"Everything is bigger in Texas," wrote TV Guide . "And that includes Top Chef ."
It also includes all the Texas clichés we expect from a show produced in Los Angeles. ("Saddle Up," says one of Bravo.com's pop-up ads.)
The premiere—and eight of the season's fourteen episodes—takes place in San Antonio, which as the San Antonio Express-News ' Jennifer McInnis noted, anted up $200,000 to the show's producers via its Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The state provided twice that amount, which is information that the show, as the Dallas Observer reported, tried to keep under wraps. (And foodies in our biggest city, Houston, were also felt slighted about its absence from Top Chef .)
Give the producers points for wit, however. The season will feature Pee Wee Herman—whose Big Adventure took him to the Alamo—as a guest judge. And that particular setting is probably appropriate given that the 29 competitors will shrink to sixteen by the end of next week's episode.
Addie Broyles of the Austin American-Statesman talked to Qui (left) and Curran, as well as the show's co-host Padma Ladshmi. "It gives me a huge sense of pride to try to represent Texas," Qui told her. "At the same time, it gives a lot of pressure."
Broyles also reports that the infamously slender Ladshmi "said portion sizes were definitely as big as they were reputed to be...."
The Express News ' McInnis found that head judge and New York City restaurant owner/chef Tom Colicchio had high praise for the Texas food he and the other judges ate that wasn't about beef or bigness, including their visits to Monterey in San Antonio and Barley Swine in Austin.
You go to Barley Swine or Monterey, it's just good food that is kind of global food that you can find in large cities and in small cities,” Colicchio said. “I think those chefs are doing more to dispel that notion of ribs and meat than anything that we can do on our show.
Top Chef: Texas airs tonight on Bravo at 9 p.m. CDT.