Welcome back, and thanks for joining us for Season 9 of Top Chef. While for the most part, the season is structured as it has been in the past, there are two key ways in which our ninth season is a season of firsts.
The first "first" is that this is the first time that we are traveling to three cities instead of one. This season’s backdrop is the State of Texas, rather than just one city in it, and, as such, we’re able to feature San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin (a city that speaks to my guitar-lovin’ soul.) I’d like to say more about all the sights we took in while shooting this season, but the season was filmed in July and it was at least 110 degrees every single day we were there. I’m not exaggerating -- ask the residents of the cities we were in, and they’ll confirm my report. Unfortunately, the relentlessly high heat drove us indoors, where we remained for the bulk of the time we were in Texas. I’d have liked to have been able to see and do more than we managed while there. But, as in seasons past, our challenges do highlight aspects of the locations in which they’re set, so you will still get to experience Texas over the course of the season to come.
Our second "first" is that this is the first time the contestants had to cook their way into the season by cooking for the judges. In seasons past, contestants were selected based on audition videotapes they provided, along with their resumes. At some point there may have been some cooking for producers, but it was minimal and never for the judges. This season’s contestants, however, were thrown a curveball. As you saw, the contestants arrived believing that they were “in”…only to discover that they weren’t, and that almost half of them would be “out” before they’d even unpacked. The heat was applied from the moment they arrived, with no “let’s get to know you” period first. This set the tone right away that this is a serious competition. After the shock wore off, some of the chefs rose to the challenge and presented very good food. Others flamed out right away, some buckling under the unexpected pressure, others showing skills that just didn't measure up to those of their competitors. I won’t even address the young guy who couldn’t even butcher a simple piece of meat. As of the end of the first episode, 11 of the 16 slots have been filled, with only five still up for grabs and a whole third team still to cook before we turn back to those chefs on the bubble. Who knows – we might not even get to the chefs on the bubble. We’ll see next week…
Loved the episode and can't wait to see what happens next week. As a Louisvillian and a fan of Chef Lee, I hope he gets a coat. Can't wait to watch what happens....
Have not read backwards, but did you send the boy home for messing up the cuts of meat or because he was a jerk thinking only of himself?
So glad you are blogging this season. When i first went on Bravo.com after the episode ended - no "Blogs" link! The show would have been much more 2 dedimensional to me without your post-cooking analysis. I do have two questions - 1)was it really structured so that the judges made their decisions on eaeach group of chefs as they came in? That seems very risky to me in terms of not having enough spaces for deserving chefs who competed last. It seems like a big boost to chefs who went early when the judges might have given the coats more "freely" instead of knowing there were a limited number of spaces left. and 2) what was the rationale to having 3 different tasks for the groups. I can understand concerns that the viewers would be more "interested" in 3 different tasks, but i personally would have prefered, giving everyone the same structure, opportunities and limitations, especially for such a crucial first challenge. Notice the "fairness" theme here :-) Thanks!
Crimes against pork . . . The Horror! Tom, thank you for sending home arrogant youngster who could not butcher meat but tried anyway and did something awful to that nice lady's tenderloin. All I can say is that after what he did to that beautiful piece of pig, he is lucky Anthony Bourdain was not on this episode. Respect the meat!!
I have a couple of questions: did you know that the kid from Sacramento was as obnoxious as he seemed to be BEFORE you sent him packing? Who gets to clean up after the chefs in the competition? The food looked amazing--even the lady with the badly cut pork tenderloin turned out something that looked good--I, too, would have liked to see the chefs have the same item(s) to work with--like on Chopped--It is always fun to see what different people do with a given set of supplies/instructions. Great show--
I really like how you're starting the season this year. I'm not so crazy seeing past Chef's doing commercials.
Even though you chose avoid talking about the young man who couldn't butcher the pork rack, I enjoyed the scene with you staring at what he was doing to the rack while he was trying to talk his way out of the situation. When he put the saw down and grabbed a knife to trim the cap (due to his realization that he was completely our of his depth and you weren't walking away) I nearly lost it.
We love the new format; in one episode you've greatly heightened the bar for Top Chef. Now if the editors will kindly give us more cooking and less bickering from the contestants Top Chef will be Top Cooking. And Tom, your blog goes a long way to helping us understand the judging. We rely on the editors & are often confused at the end of a program. Wish we could taste!
I wondered the same thing as hf12, the possibility of a more deserving chef in group 3 not getting a spot because they were in the last group. Ten more chefs are yet to cook, and there are four chefs on the bubble, so you now have only 5 places for ten or fourteen chefs. And what order will you taste the last group's food? Will you judge all ten at once this time? Sorry about all the math, but it did make me wonder.
I want to thank you and Padma for blogging so soon after the epsiode aired. I like to read the feelings etc of the people that actually participated in the show. I watch a ton of shows on Bravo. It is very frustrating that alot of the other people on the other shows. (Hello all you Housewives) are too "busy" to blog. thank you again.
I have to agree with hf12. That last group is at a distinct disadvantage. You may be leaving behind the best chef because he/she is in group 3 and there are no more spaces left. I would think that sampling all the cooking first and picking the top 16 second would truly lead you to the best chefs. I guess we will see how this works out. I love Top Chef no matter how you pick the contestants!!!
I am ecstatic that you sent Tyler Stone home before the tasting. I felt that he was too young to begin with and I could care less that he cooked for "famous people and politicians". If you try out for a show like "Top Chef", except to be tested and to not know how to properly butcher, you shouldn't call yourself a Chef.
Tom, The way you sent that arrogant kid home was epic, we all loved it. He needed to be put in his place and he still didn't get it.
so glad you sent that arrogant youngster packing. Could not believe how he was murdering that gorgeous pork. My cat could have done a better butchering job! Loved his disbelief that you were actually sending him home before he'd even turned on a burner.
Looks like a very interesting season.
BEST first TC episode EVER! Maybe it wasn't fair for the chefs, but it sure was exciting. And pretty satisfying to see the "best chef" there go home with his tail between his legs.
You guys really missed out by not filming in FT Worth. I realize you can't make evryone happy but Ft Worth has a very good foodie/dining scene. Lots of great hole in the wall places, the best tacos you've ever had, Tim Love's places etc... I hate Dallas being the face of Texas when you have blue colar, down to earth Ft Worth right next door.Oh well, Bravo's loss.
That arrogant chef that attempted to butcher his pig - hello, if he was any kind of chef, wouldn't he have at least attempted to cut the cuts like meat that has been pre-butchered for him? Surely he could recognize a PORK TENDERLOIN and pork chops? I watch lots of cooking shows and I have yet to see a show, where at some point in time, they didn't butcher something. I too, thought that too many spots were freely given out when a whole team has yet to make a showing.
I am curious about the grouping and the "bubble" folks. If you already have given away nearly two-thirds of the chef jackets does this put the third group of chefs at a disadvantage if you have to leave some jackets for those you would like to see cook again?
maybe a first for Top Chef but seems like the competing for jackets is just a rip off of Masterchef. I really hope that once the 16 are in it returns to the Top Chef norm.
A) HAPPY to see Tom send home TYLER. I'M more careful than that when i cut meat. B) I was surprised to 'like' as many of the chefs as I did. The back-stories are great. C) I really am rooting for Edward Lee. D)Im just a girl, not a chef, however, I am from New Orleans, and my daddy worked as a waiter, double shifts, so by happenstance and i got to run around his kitchen and sneak food from Emeril Lagasse. So when i say Im not fancy or i dont know everything, Lord knows i mean it. However, when Emeril first came to New Orleans EVERYONE gave him a hard time and said he couldnt cook. That man is awesome. I would watch, just to see Emeril every week. peace and love, P
Why isn't Bourdain back? I hope he is at least a guest judge. He seemed to disappear last season when he was touted as a full-time judge.
I agree regarding the format. Liked the idea, but seems unfair that so few slots are left and an entire group has not cooked.
Personally, I thought this whole setup, although interesting, was inherently unfair and not a good way to pass judgement on someone's chef abilities. No, that young man could not butcher a pig...but because everyone didn't have to do butchering, maybe there are more in the group who can't butcher either! I think the most fair way to "compete" in this opening round would have been for each contestant to cook the same protein in their own unique way. I felt like it was comparing apples to oranges! And I also think it was risky...and not so fair...to hand out chef's coats as you went along. The third group only has 5 slots left. The people in the "Bubble Room" are more than likely a waste of time. I just thought this whole opening evaluation system was way to subjective. But then, Top Chef has never been about being "fair"!
Nice way to begin a good showdown and the look on your face when the young man was trying to butcher the pig! You were right to send him home as cutting the meat for right selection is a basic knowledge taught in many culinary classes in the early stages.I do hope ya'll have some genuine TEXAS type meals !
Can't wait to see the episode with Pee-Wee- he's such an awesome nerd.* I know you are but what am I?
Great way to mix up the show!! I've been a fan since the first episode and thoroughly enjoyed the new twist! (shocked when the first guy was told to leave after "butchering" that pork loin, AWESOME!) Looking forward to what seems to be a great new season!
I'm not a chef and have never worked in a restaurant kitchen, but it seems to me that there must be an egg timer somewhere in there. It seems logical to grab one and set it so that it goes off when it's time to plate. Just sayin' ....
This is going to be a great season! Being from Chicago it's nice to see such a great representation. I have yet to go to Chuy's place, but it's on my list. I was pleasantly surprised to see the belt buckle that you're wearing in the publicity photos... I made that in my studio here in Chicago! (serial #0000173) I'm sort of embarrassed about how primitive it is on the back... I have really refined my work since then. Please let me know if Padma wants one too! (maybe all silver, this time?) Anyway... Great to have season 9 under way. And Emeril is an excellent choice.
Ty-Lor and Dakota: "We were both among the top 20 chefs nomimated by James to win a beard in South Omaha 2008."
It is great to see you all back again. Truly enjoy you on Top Chef. Nice to see Emeril on board this season too. I will be watching.
I'm so glad my all time favorite show is back! It seems like it's been years! I love all the judges! It's refreshing to get something more entertaining than all the childish bickering we usually see from the housewives shows. Big time fan of Top Chef! Oh, and thanks for sending that guy home so quick, he didn't know what he was doing - the guy who butchered the pig to death. Only 5 slots left,...now watch the majority of them do really well. Maybe there will be more than 16...who knows,...guess I will next Wednesday!
I think that it is really GREAT that the chefs have to earn their slot for the show. I think it will eliminate chefs that are not up to caliber from the being on the show. Prior seasons the first 3-5 shows were eliminating chefs that did not belong on the show. I was glad to see that Tom got rid of the chef that could not butcher a pig and ruined that one chef tenderloin. I bet she will not let another chef do her butchering again or she will watch them like a hawk while they do it. I am looking forward to this season.
Why oh Why did you not come to Houston??? Ok even though you did not come to Houston, yes it was 100 degree's pretty much the entire summer. Boy was it brutal. So sorry to hear you missed out on some great sites (even though there is not much to see in Dallas-lol) . Glad you did get to stay in our state capital- Austin and experience San Antonio. Looking forward to this season of Top Chef!!!
First off, Padma looked amazing!
I agree with hf12, it seemed that group 1 had the more difficult task with having to rely on someone to butcher the pig. I too think the coats may have been handed out to freely and possibly not leaving enough for group 3 or those on the bubble.
Love the show, I haven't missed a season.
You were right to send that arrogant kid packing, however, I didn't tune in last night to watch auditions for the show. I liked your old formula better, this new approach seems like you are taking a page from American Idol.
Good to have you back for another season, looks to be a good one. My question is what would have happened if the first 2 groups hit it out of the ballpark and the 16 were chosen without the final group even cooking? Seems like a little unfair not to even get a chance. That being said I like the cook in, and my only complaint is Tom should have smacked The Ripper over the head with a slab of bacon afer he was dismissed for giving new meaning to the term " Butcher"
Tom, My wife and I are die hard fans of the show. My only gripe is why 10 p.m. and why only 1 hour for the first episode? We do Tivo it but it would be great if it were on at 8 or 9 ? Anyhow we hope to make it to one of your resturants one day. The young kid was way to cocky. I wonder if he is a good cook? I am and never butchered anything. But I feel I would have done a better job than he did. Top Chef not Top cook. Keep it coming it is the best show on TV. Christopher & Mary Wall Fuquay Varina, NC.
Tom I have nothing but respect for you especially after the all star season..thank you sending that arrogant young man home...and how you did it..honest but classy..
I agree with hf12 the same challenge would have been better. Alot of cooking challenge shows have started ( I think because of the sucess of Top Chef ) But I feel the challenges are getting alittle out of hand and to difficult. I really am afraid Top Chef may start changing TO MUCH.
I loved the first episode! I usually catch the show on a rerun, but I was more then happy to watch this episode first time around! I live just outside of Austin, Tx and I will confirm that the whole summer, we were over 100 degrees every day! Love the show!!
I liked the beginning ep. It held my attention because of the nature of it. I only wish it was extended by 30 minutes in order to get the last group in. When you dismissed that cocky cook right away, I thought, "Bravo, well done!" It was no time for 2nd chances for that pompous porker.