Bravo’s Emmy-winning reality series “Top Chef” returned on Wednesday for its ninth season, this time in Texas. To suit the colossal size of the state, the show is bigger and badder than ever, narrowing down the competition from 29 chefs to 16 finalists. And that was just the premiere.
Not that the contestants would have it any other way, what with getting to be in the same room with the finery that is Tom Colicchio. Swoon!
In addition to a critical panel of Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and Food & Wine magazine‘s Gail Simmons, the Emeril Lagasse is blessing us with his judging skills, and Bam! I’m glad to see him. (Though no matter what, he’s no Colicchio.) Chef Hugh Acheson of “Top Chef Masters” fame also joins the panel.
Within minutes of watching the premiere episode, I knew I’d once again be hooked this season. As the names and faces change from season to season, the chef pedigrees seem to be improving. At one point I wanted to rewind and count just how many James Beard Award nominees there are this season!
And with those chef titles come huge egos. I remember watching the first season of “Top Chef” thinking, “Why are these people all so cocky? And angry? It’s just food!” I know, blasphemy! Right?
But that was before I knew of sweetbreads, which are neither “sweet” nor “breads” (discuss), or of the potential for a perfectly prepped pea. The show gives you a sense of how amazing it must be to cook masterpieces sans recipe or win a blindfolded palate test, let alone butcher your own meat. Then there’s salting food horizontally. Is that some kind of super power? Blows me away every time.
While the food is incredible, truly beautiful and downright inspiring, it’s not the dishes that keep me coming back for another season’s helping. Though the food gets more and more complex, the chefs’ simple and universal passion is what I can’t resist.
I’ve never seen people so passionately pursue their dream, literally wiping away sweat from their furrowed brows. (Granted that could just be a hot stove, but still.) At their fancy, away-from-home digs, the contestants bond over their mutual love of food, but in the kitchen it’s an all-out, take no prisoners bloodbath. And darn you, Bravo, I can’t not watch what happens next.
Are you a fan of the series? If so, do you have a clear favorite already?