Bravo TV’s 19th season of Top Chef will premiere March 3, and judging from the trailer, which features local chefs, views of the city skyline, the Houston Farmer’s Market, and a brisket being hurriedly loaded onto a pit — it’s about to get very Houston.
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi announced the premiere on Twitter, posting photos of herself and chef judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons along with the release. In the trailer, between shots of skinned alligator waiting to be prepped and glimpses of beloved Houston street art, the author emphasized that Houston is “one of the most diverse cities in the nation,” and the challenges are set to coordinate.
Houston’s own Evelyn García, chef and co-owner of Southeast Asian restaurant Kin HTX, and Jo Chan, the executive chef of Austin’s restaurant Eberly, are set to compete among the show’s 15 “cheftestants.” Each will be required to put their spin on regional dishes and cultural favorites that reflect the city — ranging from barbecue and biscuits to Tex-Mex favorites, including queso and fajitas — which are credited to Houston’s own Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, a Tex-Mex spot established in 1973.
Challenges will also take notes from Houston’s communities, including a Quickfire session that dares chefs to speedily craft their version of Nigerian cuisine — a nod to Houston being home to the largest Nigerian population in the country. There’s an elimination challenge in which contestants are tasked with feeding locals at the Asian Night Market, which celebrates the culinary and creative contributions of the city’s large Asian communities. Contests will also revel in Houston’s “Space City” nickname by attempting “space-friendly” dishes for former astronauts, and chefs will get some hands-on experience catching their own ingredients while braving the Gulf with Colicchio.
This season, which was taped last fall, is also set to pay tribute to Texas’ female trailblazers and will host a block party fundraiser to preserve Freedmen’s Town, the historic neighborhood in Houston’s Fourth Ward that served as a prime settlement for African Americans after emancipation.
Among the many notables appearing this season will be local chefs including Lucille’s executive chef Chris Williams, Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ, chef Christine Ha of The Blind Goat and Xin Chao, and Top Chef alumna Dawn Burrell, a finalist from last season who will serve as a “Top Chef All-Star,” lending “guidance and expertise” to the contestants among other previous competitors.
Borrowing from other Top Chef installments, Lakshmi will also require chefs to create two dishes that look identical but taste different, à la Top Chef France. Restaurant Wars will also return, requiring chefs to work an open kitchen during their quest to cater to a dining room full of guests while preparing a tasting table for judges.
The competition, which features working chefs from around the world, is stiff, but placing them in a state like Texas, with a sprawling food scene, also ups the challenge — and contestants are well-aware.
“You don’t mess with Texas,” said one chef, “and yet,” another says, “they sent us to Texas to mess it all up.”
Winning could be worth them putting their reputations on the line. Along with the title of Top Chef, the winner will receive $250,000, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, and an appearance at the annual Food & Wine Classic event in Aspen.
Last year’s winner — Gabe Erales of Austin — did not participate in the post-win activities, media interviews or appearances associated with Top Chef following allegations that he had harassed and retaliated against a woman he had dated and worked with while he was a chef at Austin restaurant Comedor. Eater Houston and Eater Austin reported that Erales, who was fired from Comedor, issued an apology, but many fans were outraged that the show had chosen a winner that had been accused of harassment.
Lakshmi publicly called for an investigation into the show’s failure to fully vet the claims of harassment after the allegations broke, but Bravo never stated whether there would be an investigation. A statement has still not been issued, but executives from Magical Elves told Hollywood Reporter in August that though they “did not condone” Erales’s behavior, they felt that re-shooting the season would be “unfair” to other contestants.
Bravo and Lakshmi’s promotion of this year’s season, however, has been overwhelmingly positive — with Lakshmi’s calling it a “beautiful, interesting” season, and we can only hope that Houston’s winner reps the city well.
The first episode premieres March 3 at 7 p.m. CST/8 p.m. EST. In the meantime, you can view the trailer below.
- Austin Sends Another Contender to ‘Top Chef’ Houston [EATX]
- As ‘Top Chef’ Heads to Houston, Let’s Not Forget About What Happened Last Season [EAHTX]
- Bravo’s Top Chef Returns This March for a “Beautiful, Interesting” Season 19: Get Your First Look at the New Cheftestants [Bravo]
- Austin Restaurant Comedor Parts Ways With Executive Chef Over ‘Repeated Violations of Policies’ [EATX]