In the last calendar year, we’ve had almost 40 weeks of Top Chef programming on Bravo. Split between Just Desserts, Top Chef 7, Top Chef All-Stars and Masters there were only a few Wednesdays where you couldn’t find someone packing up their knives and going. Since Masters took its final bow a few months ago the waters have been quiet. Mercifully so, as I’m quite sure that Jesse would have gone insane if he had to breakdown one more quickfire challenge.
Whatever the reason, our respite seems to be coming to an end. Just Desserts 2 is two weeks away and though there haven’t been any concrete details, Top Chef 9 was certainly coming at some point. Well now we have a few details and they are juicy to say the least.
First off is the appearance of two new judges. The first being Lord Emeril Lagasse. The patron of pork fat has signed on as the fourth judge backing up returning judges evil Padma Lakshmi, Chef Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons (joy!). Assuming the reports are accurate it appears that he’ll be taking over the revolving door of “guest” judge that was occupied by Anthony Bourdain last season. We’ll miss Loki Bourdain on the show but as long as he keeps writing blogs about each episode we’ll survive.
Emeril wasn’t the only person to join the cast. Chef Hugh Acheson also joins the cast. You’ll remember him from Top Chef Masters. Frankly it is a little puzzling that not only are they going to five judges, but that they picked someone like Acheson. Maybe they’re trying to get some more synergy between the various Top Chef products, but our guess is that Emeril won’t be around all the time and Acheson will be the fill in. Expect Acheson to be used sort of the way that Hubert Keller was a part of the Just Desserts panel, but appeared only every now and then.
The real question is for episodes when guests like Jimmy Fallon appear, will either Acheson or Lagasse be around? I would think not, unless they feel that having more people involved with judging leads to a better product and a better outcome. The show has already been cutting down actual cooking time as the seasons have progressed. Now with having 5 or even 6 judges in an episode that puts more pressure on the production staff to get everyone involved which probably means even tighter editing of the challenges.
The thought of adding two more judges would be enough, but now comes some word on where the season will take place. Originally we’d been hearing that the show was returning to Chicago, but apparently that was way off. Word is that the show will be traveling down to Texas and take place across three cities – Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin (sorry Houston). No more information is available on how exactly that will work and whether episodes will jump from city to city. That seems a little unlikely.
This news leads us to several predictions:
1) There will be a challenge that involves cooking cowboy food out on the prairie somewhere. Cast iron will be involved and people will get very hot and very angry. The person that goes home will probably be whomever screws up the cornbread and/or chili.
2) Padma + cowboy hat. Lock it down NOW. This is happening. She may also appear at a challenge riding a horse at least once. Even odds on that one.
2) Emeril will pull out his signature “BAM!” catch phrase to compliment one of the chefs. That chef will feel like his life is complete.
3) BBQ will be featured prominently. This is less a prediction and more wishful thinking.
4) Nearly every season involves sports of some sort. Cooking at stadiums or for sporting events has become about as regular as Restaurant Wars or the team skills challenge. That being said, an episode will occur at the New Dallas Cowboys stadium. Though if they were filming from April through now, there hasn’t been football, so maybe not.
5) Chef Tim Love will appear this season as a guest judge. Either the chefs will be using one of his kitchens for a challenge or perhaps he shows up as a guest during Restaurant Wars. If this doesn’t happen then Bravo is doing it wrong. Very very wrong.
We’ll be more excited once we hear about the cast and get a feel for some of the special appearances coming this season. With the premiere of Just Desserts coming on the 24th, expect some sort of preview for Top Chef 9 sometime in September with a release probably in late October/November.