On Sunday, October 3, The Next Iron Chef Season 3 will begin. Houston chef Bryan Caswell—of Reef, Stella Sola, and Little Bigs—is one of ten contestants nationwide competing over eight episodes to see who gets a shot at being on Iron Chef America.  The premiere airs at 8 p.m. Central time on the Food Network. (That’s our boy on the back row, third from left.) In September I did a phone interview with Bryan, who was featured in our story “Sea Student,” in the July 2010 issue of Texas Monthly. TM: You’re used to cooking under pressure. Was this just more intense, or was it completely different? BC: A Friday or Saturday night at the restaurant can be incredibly chaotic, so in one way the pressure is similar. But I’m a stickler for writing things down and doing time lines, and you don’t have a lot of opportunity for that on the show. You’re doing a lot of it off the cuff. TM: What was it like standing there in front of the judges? BC: Nerve-racking. I don’t think anything could ever prepare you for that. It was like being a freshman going through hell week in a college fraternity. Or having two Mexican wrestlers just going at it in your stomach. That first judging day—I thought a few people were going to pass out. You have to remember to breathe. TM: Were the judges intimidating? BC: They are all incredibly smart, so it’s not like you can turn to another contestant and go, “Oh, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” when they tell you something tastes like crap. [The judges were Simon Majumdar, UK food writer and blogger; Iron Chef season one winner Michael Symon; and restaurateur Donatella Arpaia of Donatella’s, and other restaurants, in New York.] TM: Did the show set things up to wear you down, because it certainly seems like that when you watch one of these competitions on TV. BC: I don’t know that they did it on purpose, but it definitely turned out that way. You get called at 6 or 7 a.m., and then you’re at the studio all day log, and you come back at 10:30 or even midnight every single day. But it’s as much a function of the filming schedule as anything else. TM: Were you crazy busy all the time? BC: There was actually a lot of waiting around. You’re waiting for make-up, you’re waiting for wardrobe, you’re waiting for them to tell you what’s happening next. TM: Did the challenges play to your strengths or weaknesses? BC: I felt like I was definitely tailored to the first three, because I’ve always tried to be a jack of all trades, even though my specialty is fish. TM: Were there any particular ingredients you would have either loved or hated to get? BC: Any kind of pristine, beautiful whole fish would have made me happy as a lark. And I sure as hell didn’t want to see a chicken breast. Too boring. TM: What if they had said the secret ingredient was haggis [a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s stomach stuffed with its seasoned heart, liver, and lungs]? BC: Well [pauses], I’ve never done haggis, but I could. The spirit of the show is such that you start to believe in yourself, that you can do anything, I mean, because you don’t have a choice. You get into it, you work it. TM: What surprised you? BC: I didn’t think I would have to wear that much make-up. We broke early one day and went straight to this little beer house. The waitress comes over and does a double-take and goes, “Are you wearing make-up?” I felt so embarrassed–I had forgotten to wipe it off. I was, like, “Actually, yes, I am.” TM: What food were you craving when you got back to Texas? BC: Tex-Mex [laughs]. But you knew I was going to say that. Name me one Texan who leaves the state and doesn’t have Tex-Mex on their mind when they come back. TM: When will your new Tex-Mex restaurant open? BC: We’re shooting for mid to late January. [It will be in Houston’s historic thirties Tower Theater at 1201 Westheimer.] Note for you Houstonians: There will be Next Iron Chef watching parties at two of Caswell’s restaurants: Stella Sola and Little Bigs, on a first come first served basis. They will be held as the show is aired, through October and into November. (Reef is closed on Sundays.)