Top Chef's brand-new season in Texas boasts more competitors than ever before, with a jaw-dropping 29 hopefuls joining the culinary showdown -- nearly twice the number of chefs as in previous seasons. The field will narrow to 16 competitors, who will head to Texas and compete in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
Season 9 (premiering Wednesday, November 2nd at 10/9c) boasts guest judges with bigger-than-big names. Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron, pop icon Pee-Wee Herman, Iron Chef Cat Cora, New Orleans star chef John Besh, and R&B diva Patti Labelle will sample the contenders' dishes and possibly take home some leftovers.
It'll harder than ever to predict The Lone Star State cheftestants' fates, with a radical new transmedia twist: to get the full story, fans need to keep up with separate action on TV, the Web and social media. For instance, after chefs are eliminated on-air, they join an online-only Last Chance Kitchen video competition that will ultimately earn one chef the chance to return to the televised show and vie for the title. Meanwhile, fans can crown their own hero by rooting for their Fan Favorite. If your heart is broken by a too-soon exit, start exercising those clicking fingers; you'll help the season's Fan Favorite chef win a special bonus prize.
Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and host Padma Lakshmi all return to the Judges' Table, but this time they'll have to share their G&Ts with chef/restaurateur Emeril Lagasse and Top Chef Masters Season 3's Hugh Acheson (or The Hughnibrow, as Andy Cohen so lovingly calls him.)
The season's chefs hail mostly from New York, L.A., Chicago and Seattle, including a pair from the same Windy City restaurant. Watch their casting videos and start placing bets on who'll win the title of Top Chef!
Which Season 9 hopefuls look like fierce competitors? Who do you think will crumble? Start a Tweet Battle!