Top Chef Premiere Recap: Butchering the Butchers

Tom is still the man.
Tom is still the man.

Howdy and welcome to Top Chef Texas! Padma kicked off season nine by taking literally not even one second to make a Texas joke: “Get ready for our biggest season ever.” Because everything is so big in Texas! Get it? If this first second is foreshadowing, we think we can expect more puns and jokes than we’ve ever seen before. And cowboys!

Tom is still the man.
Tom is still the man.

Speaking of jokes, season nine also started off with 29 chefs (also the New York logo and a screen shot of Grub Street. We’re famous!). Some of the cheftestants haven’t even been alive 29 years! Because you probably can’t remember who everyone was, and because we couldn’t either, we’ve given most chefs a nifty nickname to help you keep track until Tom, Gail, Padma, and new judges Emeril and Hugh Acheson whittle this pool down to sixteen. To help with the whittling, the ginormous cast of characters got broken up into three groups, with each group getting a different challenge.

Group one was pretty excited to see Emeril. Chris, who has a pink backpack and looks like a creeper, was “like Bam!” Does Emeril still do that? Emeril himself said he was excited to be there in the least excited voice ever, so maybe he actually wasn’t. He and Tom explained that each chef would get one of ten cuts of pig and one hour to cook with it. They also announced that they would be judging on butchering and cooking techniques, a first that we were completely down with.

Creeper Chris turned out to be a kindly creeper, as he helped vegan-chef-for-ten-years Colin out with butchering his pig. Not so kind was Tyler, who at 22 and on the show just ten minutes repeated many, many times that he’s a personal chef for famous people and wrote a cookbook in just three and a half weeks. He probably should have spent that time learning how to butcher meat, as he attacked his pork chops with what appeared to be a hacksaw. “I don’t usually butcher big pieces like this,” he explained to Tom, who replied, “What do you butcher, then?” It turned out Tom has no patience for bad butchering, and he sent Tyler home before he could even get cooking.

Can we have more of badass Tom, please?

“This is a serious competition for serious chefs,” said someone, in case you got confused by the hacksaw and thought this was Kitchen Nightmares. This meant no spills were allowed either, so Vegan Colin also got sent home before chefs tasted his food, which included spilled soup. A bunch more chefs got sent home because of their actual cooking, while Sarah (pig skin ravioli), Kindly Creeper Chris (caramel apple pig thing), Nyesha (Tex-Mex pork ravioli), Little Richie (onion soup with pig ears), and Heather (maple and citrus baby-back ribs) got official spots in the top sixteen. Cruise Ship Chef Molly and From New York Grayson got sent to “the bubble,” a room filled with wine and Shiner Bock (they’re in Texas, did you know that?), where they had to wait to cook yet again.

Group two was introduced even faster than group one, so quickly that our notes say things like “lots of Chicago,” “Black Hagrid from North Carolina is James Beard nom,” and “Dakota is from L.A. and oh my God the tattoos.” Group two received a different challenge: choose just one ingredient from a table of the judges’ favorite ingredients, and everyone must make a different dish with that ingredient. Little Nina wanted sweetbreads and Hagrid wanted seafood, but everyone agreed on rabbit, probably because it was the tamest ingredient in the bunch. “Rabbit orgies are awesome,” remarked Dakota Tattoos, so maybe there were other reasons, too. Chuy, 25* but looking like a child, explained in an eerily happy way that his family used to eat their pet rabbits for dinner. Chris Gary decided to name-drop all the past popular Top Chefs whom he cooks like, which would have been more annoying if we hadn’t been distracted by his rugged good looks, something we expect he’ll use to his full advantage with the judges. Ty-Lör Boring started talking about cooking his rabbit Thai-style, but we got distracted once again, this time by his name. Has there ever been a cheftestant with a better name? Can he win just so we can see the name Ty-Lör Boring plastered everywhere?

Lucky for us, Ty-Lör Boring (we’re only ever going to call him by his full name) went through to the top sixteen, along with Keith/Hagrid (rabbit three ways), Whitney (rabbit sugo), Pet-Eating Chuy (adobo-marinated rabbit loin), Cutie Chris Who Is Right Near Our Age (duo of rabbit), and Dakota Tattoos (rabbit crepinettes). Edward and “this is like being in a wax museum” Janine went off to the bubble. Because this is Top Chef Texas and everything is BIGGER, this was a two-parter, so no group three, the Bubble, or Hugh Acheson until next week. Who do you think will lasso the final spots?

Next week: Group three doesn’t know that there are only five spots left! There are finally more Southern chefs in the mix! The Bubble! Someone cooks while his hand gushes blood! We continue to hope for an armadillo challenge!

*This post has been corrected to show that Chuy is 25, not 22.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas