Top Chef Texas-Making Rabbit the Food of the Gods

I’m not at all sure what the significance of being Top Chef “Texas” is, except I must suppose that the contenders are chefs from in and around Texas. Because, come on, in the first two episodes we had one main ingredient of rabbit and one dish featuring octopus. Nowhere was there a rack of ribs or anything charbroiled for that matter, the sort of foodstuffs one might expect in the great state of Texas.

In fact, the rabbit cooking challenge had me smiling because those contenders just shrugged and regaled us with tales of the many meals of exquisite rabbit of their childhoods. I like to consider myself a cook of sorts, very much an amateur to be sure, but I can make a soup stock with a full body if of a mind. But if someone told me I had to prepare a meal with rabbit, first I would get very queasy at the notion, and next I would thoroughly panic. Not that anybody in my surround from husband to daughter to granddaughter would even consider eating a rabbit but there you have it.

Even with my light-hearted mockery, I genuinely do enjoy Bravo’s Top Chef series. Though, I chide with a smile, it’s definitely no Next Food Network Star. The Food Network’s competitive cooking series The Next Food Network Star features amateur chef contenders. Thus their food offerings are of the more ordinary and , in fact, I'm not sure I’ve ever seen any Food Network Chef prepare rabbit. Top Chef….whatever the city…. Only has specifically professional type Chefs and it’s an angle I appreciate.

They do come up with the darndest food concoctions, however. These chefs make fricassees, cassoulets, all kinds of polentas, warm salads, confits and saddles. Heaven knows a simple casserole would not do.

The judging panel consists of Padma Lakshmi, Emeril Lagasse ,Tom Collcchio ,Hugh Acheson, and Gail Simmons. Gail is the required on-site judge from the enterprise picking up a large portion of the bill for the series. Gail works for Food & Wine magazine and, of course, represents on a major scale, their investment in the series. Padma is the sexy babe who introduces challenges in a deep sexy voice while posing with hand on curvy hip next to the week’s guest judge. Tom is the gentle mentor type of fellow who encourages the cooks as they labor for the challenge, or slaps them if needed. Hugh is a genuine chef, a Top Chef Masters winner, who signed up this year as a judge. Finally, in a complete surprise, Emeril Lagasse, of BAM fame, formerly of The Food Network, currently star of a daily cooking series on the Hallmark channel.

The prize for Top Chef is a cash prize of $125,000, a feature event in the annual Aspen Colorado cooking event and a feature in Food and Wine magazine.

This year’s series began with an impossible total of 29 contenders. The first two shows had these 29 contenders vying to land into the top 16 contenders. We must assume that, as of this writing and after the top 16 have been determined, the series will get serious. Right in time, as I smile, for the busy cooking season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We had would-be contenders landing in a “bubble” if their first cooking offering was deemed insufficient by the judges. One contender, a young man in his early 20’s, was busy bragging on camera about his skill and destiny to win this series. You get a contender like this, groomed and scripted to keep the viewer’s human interest, you’ll either see this contender going on to be scripted into bigger and better thing, or, as was the case with this man of great confidence, they get booted right from the start.

The final sixteen have now been determined and we will be following this series as it unfolds, as the strange recipes are prepared, as the contenders’ personalities and talents emerge.

Bon appetit!

Top Chef Texas airs on Bravo, Weds, 10p. EST.

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