Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Texas Two-Step

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

Texas Two-Step

The first two groups of three compete for a spot among the final 16 cheftestants.

Hellooo Top Chef: Texas fans! I should probably introduce myself. My name is Monica and I'm Senior Editor here at Bravotv.com. I'm also a huge "foodie" and Top Chef fan (been working here since Season 3.) I'll be your recapper for the season.

This is what I wore to work today, just so all my colleagues knew what time it was. It's Top Chef: Texas time! I'm finally recovered from a stellar season of Just Desserts, and am ready for a new season, new format, new judges! 

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So, let's get to it. 29 -- yes, 29 -- cheftestant hopefuls arrive in San Antonio, the Alamo to be exact.

Watch producer Chris Gallivan explain why we chose Texas:


Thanks, Chris!

The 29 hopefuls are greeted by Padma who tells them how the new season will work. They'll be broken into three groups, competing in different challenges.

I'm not going to go into what every chef cooked for every challenge (Hugh does in his blog if you want to check it out), but let's talk about the highlights, shall we?

Step 1: The first group were presented with a whole pig by Tom and new judge Emeril Lagasse. I don't know what it is about Emeril, but he's so calm and cool, it cracks me up. Can't wait to see him at the real Judges' Table. Anyway, the first group's chefs divvy up the cuts. This was a true nose to tail challenge. It actually reminded me of my recent trip to Animal in L.A. Both pig ears -- or "listeners" as the Magical Elves referenced them in the episode -- and pig tails were on the menu, and I opted for neither. I've had pig ears before -- they're just not for me; I find the textrue disconcerting. The main event of this group's challenge was Tyler. Poor, poor Tyler. He was just in over his head and didn't know how to butcher the pig. So, Tom eliminated Tyler right then and there. And Tyler continued to talk a big game post-elimination! He actually did more begging defense than we showed on-air. You can check out that exclusive footage here:

I couldn't tell if he really believed what he was saying, honestly. He's apparently already written a book and accomplished a lot, sooo I'm sure he'll be fine. Colin had some issues too. His soup got everywhere, and I mean everywhere, and the judges wouldn't even try his food. Eliminated. (He was adorable, and kinda reminded me of the lead singer of Band of Horses, Ben Bridwell, so I was sad about that one.)Now, in these first two episodes, in addition to the usual elimination, the chefs who the judges aren't quite sure about are put on the bubble and have the opportunity to compete again to earn a chef's coat. Crazy, huh?

 

Step Two: The second group had to choose one ingredient from among many that they all would cook, and they chose rabbit. I honestly can't remember if I've ever eaten rabbit, but I thought the fact that they were able to produce so many different preparations was really impressive. Chris Crary had the judges' favorite rabbit preparation of the day, and we meet Ty-Lor Boring. His name is only second in my mind to Work of Art's The Sucklord, but he seems way less, um, artsy. Note to ask him how he got his name.

Combined, the judges allow 11 through. Read their full bios, will ya?

Sooo, next week's chefs are all vying for the remaining 5 spots, and Hugh Acheson joins the judges. I must confess Hugh was one of my fave (OK, my fave) on his season of Top Chef Masters, so I'm pretty psyched.

What did you all (I won't be saying "y'all" -- I'm from New York!) think of the premiere episode?! Can't wait to read your comments.

Until next week, Have a Nosh, and, as always, let me know where you're eating and what you're eating.