'Top Chef' Eliminations Round 1 and 2: Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger
'Top Chef' Eliminations Round 1 and 2: Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger
As we all know, and to reiterate a tired cliche, "everything's bigger in Texas!" That's exactly what the producers of Top Chef thought when they envisioned this new season. More chefs, more competition, more drama, more everything! American audiences looove them some good ol' "more of everything." So let's round up the most important changes to this season and how the first episode played out.

And Then There Were ... 29!

I guess the level of competition in the last eight seasons wasn't enough for the Top Chef producers anymore. This season, we start with 29 chefs who are split up into three different groups (was it impossible to cast 30 chefs to make even groups?). They have to present their dish to the judges and the best of each group get to actually be in the show proper. There's good and bad here. The good thing is, we get to see more cooking and can evaluate the contestant's strength and weaknesses before the main competition even begins.

Also, the most annoying chef was sent home right away when he totally butchered a pig and was unable to extract the tenderloin. The bad thing is...well, the season is delayed with a layer of frankly useless obstacles. Stricter casting on the front end could have gotten us to 16 contestants just as well. Now, we burn to a whole string of candidates that we didn't really get to know and are eliminated right away. Not sure that is necessary.

And Then there Were ... Still 29?

In addition to the new bloated cast, cheftestants that are eliminated during the primetime show will get to compete in a series of webisodes called Last Chance Kitchen for a chance to return to the series. I guess Bravo has not only decided to bombard us all year round with the Top Chef franchise in its various iterations, but the show has decided to not only televise every young aspiring chef in the country but to never let them go either.

New Judges

The usual suspects Padma, Tom and Gail are back on the judges table. This season, they are joined by Emeril Lagasse, who guest judged before and is now integrated into the judging team full time. Also, Hugh Acheson, who competed in Top Chef Masters and stood out as a more interesting TV character than chef thanks to his dry wit and fabulous speaking voice, joins the judges as well. Further evidence that if you make it on Top Chef, the producers will never let you go...

Strict Judges

What stood out during the premiere of season 9 was how tough the judges were when the plates weren't perfect. Under time restrictions some of the chefs weren't able to complete everything they set out to do and the judges showed no mercy. In addition to that asshole who wrecking the pig, another chef was eliminated without the judges even tasting the food because he splashed sauce all over his plates in an attempt to get something on there, and yet another contestant wasn't able to plate the main ingredient (rabbit!) and had to leave right away. If everything is bigger this season, everything is also more competitive.

So, what do you think of this season so far? Is it too much Top Chef, or just enough? Stay tuned for recaps of Top Chef!

Jan Cee
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of Bravo)