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Top Chef Texas: Details on culinary stardom in the Lone Star State

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Austin Photo Set: News_Laura Kelso_Texas Top Chef_July 2011_Paul Qui
Uchiko Executive Chef, Paul Qui Courtesy of Uchiko
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Austin Photo Set: News_Laura Kelso_Texas Top Chef_July 2011_Paul Qui

Editor's Note: Bravo has just confirmed that new judges Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson will be joining regulars Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons for Top Chef Texas, premiering this fall.

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The next season of Top Chef, the popular Bravo series that features aspiring chefs who compete for their shot at culinary stardom, will be set in Texas. After recent Top Chef stints in Las Vegas (Season 6), Washington D.C. (Season 7), and New York (Season 8), it seems only logical (and, ahem, rather overdue) that the Lone Star State will serve up Season 9, sizzle and all.   

Though it’s mum’s the word from all official sources, the blogosphere is rife with juicy buzz. It seems the Bravo crew has been busy visiting Texas cities. Sources have confirmed that Top Chef’s Producer and Assistant Producer bivouacked at the W Dallas the week of July 4th.  Last week, news leaked on Twitter that Top Chef cast and crew were spotted at savory San Antonio landmarks, including Il Sogno, Luke and The Esquire.

Other sources indicate that Top Chef, Season 9, will be based in San Antonio, thanks to an appealing state tax incentive, not to mention the fact that the city is home to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA, San Antonio), a community of instructors, students, and alumni with a deep commitment to the culinary arts. It probably doesn’t hurt that the CIA is set among cinematic 19th century buildings once part of the Pearl Brewery, and is equipped with two state of the art studio kitchens wired for sound and taping. A more ideal backdrop for Quickfire and Elimination challenges, there is not.

According to Eater.com though, Top Chef Texas won’t just be about Alamo City, where purportedly, the Restaurant Wars episode has already been shot. The series will capture the varied tastes of the state, including the glitz and glamour of Dallas and the laid-back, musical vibe of Austin. Speaking of Austin, Eater.com published a photograph of our own Paul Qui, Executive Chef at Uchiko, filming Top Chef at Whole Foods. Chef Qui is currently on “an extended six-week vacation” from Uchiko.

 Chef Qui is currently on “an extended six-week vacation” from Uchiko. 

Other chef contestants (or cheftestants, as Top Chef fans call them), are rumored to include Edward Lee, chef/owner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY, and Dakota Weiss, executive chef at NineThirty at the W Hotel in Westwood, Los Angeles.

In additional Top Chef Texas news, fellow CultureMap contributor, Jessica Dupuy, confirmed that Casey Thompson, former Top Chef: All Stars contestant, bunked at the Lake Austin Spa this weekend. (No doubt the spa’s sparkling ginger and lime salt soufflé had something to do with her stay.) Sources also say that the Top Chef crew will be filming at Austin’s historic Driskill Hotel this Friday.

Executive chef and owner of Parkside and Backspace, Shawn Cirkiel, says he’s not surprised that Bravo is filming parts of Top Chef in Austin. “Though we like to think of ourselves as a small town, we’re both a national and international city. And with our growth, the expectations justkeep getting bigger.”

Tyson Cole, 2011 James Beard Award winner and executive chef at Uchi, sees the choice of Austin as another positive sign for Texas’ capital city. “It's incredible, and yet another addition to the blossoming culinary scenes of all the larger cities in the state. Hopefully the new season of Top Chef will highlight some of the local food and restaurants so people outside of Texas will get a sampling of the best we have to offer.”  

Former Food & Wine Best New Chef, David Bull, who is now executive chef at Austin’s wildly popular Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen sums up the Top Chef Texas love this way: “The entire food and beverage industry is taking notice when it comes to Texas - the culture, community and history in Texas makes Top Chef a perfect fit to help showcase our state and culinary talent.”

Top Chef Texas, will likely air in the Fall of 2011, an amuse bouche preceding the Austin Food & Wine Festival, slated to take place in the Spring of 2012. All in all, it’s a well-choreographed meal, sponsored in part by a savvy culinary partner: Food & Wine Magazine.  

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