Top Chef Texas: Your Tax $$$ At Work

I was going to just watch, and enjoy, the 9th season of Top Chef. Then, I read that Bravo may have had an incentive to shoot the show’s latest season here – 400,000 incentives, in fact, from the Governor’s office, supplemented by another 200,000 from the City of San Antonio. For a state that had to cut billions from the education budget, and can’t even afford to buy textbooks for the public schools this year, this seems like a possible case of mis-placed priorities. But, like the good public watchdog that I am (NOT!), I feel it my duty to watch the show, and report on how our tax $$$ have been completely and utterly wasted wisely spent by those we chose to handle our State business. But, what if you came here looking for a recap of what happened? If you want a straight recap, try here. Not snarky enough? Try here.

So, here goes…

It’s that time again… time for one of the encore performances of Top Chef! This season, it will be held… in Texas! Because, unlike previous seasons, apparently Bravo decided there was no one city in the state that was willing to pay to host the entire season to feature the entire state! Except, not the largest city in said state! But, Bravo has a good reason for not shooting in Houston – 120,000 of them, in fact. That’s OK, however – the Houston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau commissioned a series of ads, highlighting Houston as a foodie destination – and these will be airing during eight episodes of the show. Even better: the cost of the commercials was less than the $12o,000 that Bravo wanted to “host” one episode here.

To start off, we have a montage of Texas stereotypes! Cowboy boots! A Cadillac with longhorns as a hood ornament! “Don’t Mess With Texas”! The Alamo! A longhorn skull! GiNORmous egos!

I particularly notice Tyler, who is a “chef to the celebutards stars”. Which I take to mean that he was a line cook at one of the Kardashian weddings. Or maybe he appeared on RHOBFE once.

After the obligatory intro group shot in front of the Alamo*, the chefts find out why there are so many (29) of them present: they will have to compete in order to get into the competition! They then head into the Texas-themed Top Chef Kitchen, where they meet up with Chef Tom Colicchio and Chef Emeril Lagasse. They also meet up with the objects of their desire – chefs jackets, 16 of which will be handed out to those who earn the title of “cheft”. THIS IS TOTALLY NOT A RIP-OFF FROM MASTERCHEF, Y’ALL.

The first group of cheft-wannabees has to prepare a dish featuring that classic Texan ingredient, beef pork! Tyler demonstrates his complete lack of skill with a hacksaw, butchering (and not in a good way) a hunk of dead pig. Chefs Tom and Emeril have a word with him, which ends with Tom telling Tyler to please pack his ego and go. Go back to your “celebrities”, Tyler!

Tom’s language also seems to have taken on a saltier quality , since the censors had to “hit the button” during his first observation. THIS TOTALLY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SUCCESS OF HELL’S KITCHEN.

Once the cooking period has passed, the dishes are tasted, and one of three outcomes happens: either the cheft gets a jacket and becomes One of the Sixteen, or s/he is told to PPYKAG – or, the judges put the cheft-wannabee through to choreography “on the bubble”, which means they have to do this all over again. Because, if this works for SYTYCD (which IT WAS NOT A STOLEN FROM, BY THE WAY!)…

I wonder if the producers realize that the top court for intellectual property cases is only a few hundred miles to the north-east of where they are shooting?

After the first group is disposed of, the second group is brought in, and we have to go through the whole process again. Except this time, they are shown a group of ingredients, and told they have to agree on one, which they will all use. Fortunately, someone realizes they need to make a decision before the time runs out, and so they pick rabbit.  Because rabbit just screams “Texas”, unlike seafood, which might just remind viewers of a certain city on the Gulf Coast

One of the contestants forgot to put the rabbit on her dish, and is sent packing. Another offers up almost-RAWR RABBIT, and finds himself “on the bubble”.  He joins three of his compadres in the Stew Bubble Room, where they decide that the reason they are there is due to a lack of visible ink on their bodies. Because nothing screams “high caliber chef” quite like an armful (or neckful) of tattoos.

At the end of the first two qualifying rounds, 11 jackets have been handed out. Which means that only 5 jackets remain. This would be good news for those “on the bubble”, except for the fact that a third group still has to cook. Which will happen next week.

So, how did the first episode go? Did the taxpayers get their money’s worth?

About the only actual Texas landmark highlighted during the episode was – you guessed it – the Alamo. On the other hand, there were plenty of stereotypes depicted, most of them in quick montage flashes, In fact, about the only things missing were images of (a) a traffic jam – preferably (b) in the drive-thru line at a fast-food eatery, (c) a squad of police officers administering a beat-down “street justice” to a youth of the minority persuasion, (d) a group of militia members leaving church for the gun range to practice for border-patrolling hunting season, and (e) a video of a judge taking a belt to his teenage daughter while doing his best Gordon Ramsay impression.***

Who knows – maybe next week? After all, Bravo wouldn’t want to play all their cards too soon, would they?

* The irony of opening the show in front of a battleground where all the Texians were massacred appears to have sailed right over the Elves’** heads.
** Magical Elves, the production company responsible for Top Chef.
*** These are obviously not representative of Texas. And yet, based on what Bravo chose to put forth, their presence wouldn’t have surprised me, not one bit.
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