'Top Chef': Too many cooks in the kitchen
November 3rd, 2011
11:00 AM ET

'Top Chef': Too many cooks in the kitchen

The ads promoting “Top Chef: Texas” featured head judge Tom Colicchio wearing a sheriff's star, so I was hoping he'd have that baby fastened to his lapel all season. No such luck - during Wednesday's season 9 premiere, the star was nowhere in sight.

That was the first of a few disappointments in the episode, but even a subpar offering of “Top Chef” is enjoyable. Wednesday’s premiere had its moments, particularly the elimination that came before the first commercial break, which was legendary and wonderful. We’ll get to that.

The problem was that the show crammed in double the contestants and two new judges, presumably because everything’s bigger in Texas and you go big or go home, etc., etc. As a result, the episode overwhelming, and it watered down the series’ best traits.

When faced with over two dozen chefs, we couldn’t even TRY to start learning about their techniques and quirks (e.g. scallops), which is half the fun. There were, quite literally, too many cooks in the kitchen. (This also affected the show’s other hallmark: Food porn. We were given no time to eye-eat the dishes because so many whirred across the screen.)

So here’s what I was able to pull out of the maelstrom: 29 chefs, split into three groups. Group 1 cooked pig. Group 2 cooked rabbit. Group 3 cooks next week, and 16 chefs will advance.

Oh, and some chefs go to something called the bubble room for an extra challenge to decide if they’re in the final 16. Bravo, save all these layers for the cakes on “Top Chef: Just Desserts.”

Team Swine was up first. Here, we were given a five-second glimpse into contestant Tyler Stone’s audition video, and trust me, it was five seconds too many. Stone pulled out the age-old reality trope of “I’m not cocky, I just know I’m good” and let us know he’s a chef for “celebrities.” Just like that, we had our villain!

So Stone did what any good villain does: He mercilessly slaughtered his prey (in this case, pork tenderloin), using knives and at one point a freaking HACKSAW, until it was mangled and unrecognizable.

Upon examining the murder scene, a seething Tom Colicchio told the cocksure cook, “I think you should just leave now.” Before the season’s first commercial, we had an elimination, and it was amazing.

(Wait, what am I saying? In those five minutes I built up five episodes’ worth of venom to spew at this guy! Now what?)

Next, we observed a vegan chef who hadn’t worked with pork in a decade. The herbivore also didn’t know how to transfer soup into bowls, and therefore he presented the judges with plates seemingly smeared with “Exorcist” vomit. Two contestants down, nary a morsel tasted.

After that, some people ate food, some advanced, some went to the bubble room, and some went home. I think. There was a lot going on.

Team Hare was up next, and we met Keith Rhodes, the epically bearded ex-con-turned-chef. The producers want a story like that to stick around, so Rhodes predictably advanced. Another notable finalist was named Ty-Lor Boring. Poor guy. I imagine his grade school experience must’ve alternated between “hellish” and “nightmarish.”

Hotshot contestant Nina Vicente provided the overstuffed episode with one last shocker after failing to plate her rabbit component in time. That made her the third chef to be eliminated without the judges even tasting the dish. I guess if they’re going to give us way too many contestants, the least they could do is unleash their inner Once-ler and start axing fools with maximum efficiency.

So we’re left with 11 in, four on the bubble, and a whole other group yet to cook. You do the math. (No, seriously, because I tried and blacked out in the middle.)

One last thing: I must address that fridge commercial with the Voltaggios. I love those dudes, but WOW. You’d think a season of reality TV would’ve given them a modicum of stage presence. They somehow managed to hit the uncanny valley even though they are ACTUAL humans. Take a cue from Domino’s and hire Fabio next time.

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Filed under: television • Top Chef • TV recaps

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. lil

    THE VOLT BROS COMM'L WAS PRETTY PAINFUL TOO WATCH...AS FOR THE SHOW- I STILL HAVE HOPE. I THINK ONCE THEY CUT IT DOWN TO THE MAIN CONTESTANTS IT'LL BE BACK TO NORMAL. I MUST ADMIT THE NEW SET UP WAS A BIT POINTLESS.

    November 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chris in Napa

    I'm just glad Top Chef is back with NEW chefs (not masters or all stars) and seriously glad they didn't make it a 2 hour season premiere!!! Relax a bit...it will be good once it gets going.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. vadiva30

    My disappointment was that this was not a two hour premiere especially since they were going to go from 29 to 16 in the beginning. I was a little thrown off with the 'bubble' them instead of being on the 'fence', that was a little weird. And to have 11 people advance from the first two groups and have five in the 'bubble' room, that is going to be real tricky. I love Top Chef and look forward to more episodes. I love Texas so I can't wait to see what other Texan cuisines they come up with this season.

    November 4, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. TopChef fan

    I agree about the Volt brothers. That commercial was painful to watch!

    November 4, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Hunter

    You know what I learned reading this article? I learned that the people before me who responded to it can't spell – THAT always entertains me more than CNNs articles. :-)

    November 4, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kelly

    This article is EXACTLY on point. I completely agree with everything that was brought up. I've really missed this show, but frankly, I'm a little worried for this season...

    November 3, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marcel

    Two things I've learned about Top Chef....

    I LOVE to look at Padma. And I hate to look at foams on the plate. Seriously, it looks like someone spit on the plate. If you are a chef and you put foam on the plate, people are going to think you spit on the plate. It is completely unappetizing.

    November 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. @PLINY

    You are just jellous and a H8R. And an intollerant notsee.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JS

    I hope next week is armadillo.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Just Me

    What were they thinking. Top Cheif has always been a great show to watch, last nights show was a joke. Are they trying to kill the show????

    November 3, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. chocolate

    Rabbit is actually good.. it tastes like chicken.

    November 3, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Clete

      Whenever I have been asked to taste something new and different and I ask what it tastes like, the answer is always
      "It tastes like chicken."

      November 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pliny

    You are a pathetic-looser-retard.

    And most of all, you are boring.

    November 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |

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