"Top Chef," Bravo's reality cooking competition, has taken on the motto "everything's bigger in Texas" for its Season 9 premiere, airing 10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2.
A record 29 chefs will compete in the first episode of "Top Chef: Texas" to see who will move on to the 16 finalists, who will then compete for the title of "Top Chef."
Host Tom Colicchio says there was a method to the madness of starting with 29 contestants.
"This whole idea (is) that you have to cook yourself into the competition," Colicchio said. "Because sometimes you get a clunker. You have somebody who the resume may look great ... and you look at some of them and go,'Wow this person is going to be great,' and they turn out to be terrible."
Also new this season will be a weekly webisode series called "Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen" in which two eliminated chefs will face off for the chance to return to "Top Chef" and compete for the top prize. The "Last Chance" competition can be seen on www.bravotv.com.
Colicchio, who will host the webisode series, said he "loved" the concept of show.
"What it really does — it addresses the person whom the viewer thinks got a raw deal or maybe they were ... kicked out too soon. (The competition is) not a cumulative event so if you make a bad dish — you could win five in a row, if you make a bad dish — the worst dish, you're gone.And so what it does though, it gives that person the opportunity to get back in."
Co-host Padma Lakshmi says Texas cuisine will definitely flavor this season's challenges.
"One thing that's great about traveling is that you get to really see local color and regional cooking," she said. "And you know that's what this is about. ... And every season wherever we go infuses the challenges with this own kind of flavor and influence.So it was nice to be in Texas."
By the same token, Colicchio said the show's Texas setting may help dispel the notion that Lone Star food is solely beef and barbecue.
"There's a food revolution going on throughout the country. And it doesn't matter if you're down south, up north in Maine, if you're out west in Portland or Seattle.There's just great stuff going on all over the world — all over the country right now. ... I think that hopefully after seeing the show people will go to Texas and find restaurants that are doing things outside of what they'd expect."
Celebrity judges have become a staple of the show, and this season will see Charlize Theron, Pee-wee Herman and Patti LaBelle and chefs John Besh, Cat Cora and Tim Love in the Top Chef Kitchen.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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