The competition on "Top Chef" seems to get bigger every season but nothing could be more enormous than a Texas road trip. So this time around, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and 29 chef'testants will land in the Lone Star State for the hottest throw down in the franchise's history. In a recent conference call interview Colicchio and Lakshmi discuss the unconventional layout of the show and whether or not they're playing into stereotypes.
Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi Explain the Texas Choice for "Top Chef"
Colicchio explained one of the theories behind the Texas setting. "We try to move it around every season. We haven't done Texas and there's obviously a great food scene down in Texas. So I'm sure that was one of the reasons."
Colicchio gave a brief history of the local foodie scene. "Chefs in Texas for a long time like Dean Fearing and Robert Del Grande and Steven Pyles, they took that Tex-Mex thing, they refined it and made that great. And if you're thinking of finer food in Texas you think of those shops. Now there's a whole generation of younger chefs that came up behind them who might be trained outside of Texas and who will take some of those ideas and really make them modern and go in a different direction."
He continued, "So if you're talking about the state of Texas as what's going on culinary, it's again the same thing going on in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas that's going on in some of the other cities like Cleveland, Orlando or any sort of medium to large city in the country. 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. And that's just going to continue. And it's happening in Texas as well. So those chefs are doing more to dispel that notion of rib and meat than anything that we can do on our show."
Lakshmi spoke to another reason that producers chose Texas for ninth season of "Top Chef." She added, "We hadn't been down to the South in a while. We'd been to Miami several seasons ago. And one thing that's great about traveling is that you get to really see local color and regional cooking. And that's what this is about. So moving cities is about making the show different and special every season. 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."
Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi Address Concerns that "Top Chef" Is Stereotyping Texas
But some critics are concerned that the show is playing into preconceived notions about the Lone Star state. Lakshmi revealed that she was a blank slate when she went into the shoot. "I didn't really have any stereotypes in my mind."
She quickly did discover one difference in the local cuisine. She acknowledged, "The portions are bigger in Texas. The serving size of things seem to my eyes to be larger."
Beyond that, Colicchio divulged that in his mind, the show didn't feed into a preset concept. He remarked, "I don't know if we played into it. I mean there's clearly a challenge where we talk about ribs. Some things couldn't be avoided. But all I'll say is there are some contestants from Texas. And I think they do more to still that notion than anything that we did."
Lakshmi noted that, as always, "Top Chef" is about cooking more than location. "Even though this season we were in the state of Texas, for example, we're not there to highlight the city so much as highlight the chefs in the city. So it's up to the contestants what they do with the challenges. But there are traditional barbeque challenges and things like that. You do see things that you expect to see that people do attach to Texas."
Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi Explain That "Top Chef" Always Highlights the Landmarks of a City
Still as Colicchio explained, making ribs in Texas isn't that unusual a choice for "Top Chef." As he recounted, "We played the stereotypes everywhere we go. It's not only in Texas. We do it is New York, we did it in San Francisco. Listen if we shoot it in Seattle you know we're going to be throwing salmon somewhere.
Lakshmi agreed, saying, "Look, I live in New York City and I can't remember the last time that I went to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. But when we were in New York you bet your butt we were at Ellis Island because that's a landmark of New York. I grew up in this city and if I had gotten here years ago then I would have been at Ellis Island. But those are the highlights of the city."
Catch the best of the best of Texas and "Top Chef" when the season premieres on Wednesday, November 2 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on Bravo.
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