‘Top Chef: Texas’: Don’t mess with Tom Colicchio

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The theme of Wednesday’s ‘Top Chef’ premiere was that ‘everything’s bigger in Texas.’ Yet there’s also something noticeably smaller in the Lone Star State -- Tom Colicchio’s patience.

In what had to be the fastest sendoff in ‘Top Chef’ history, the series’ lead judge dispatched the cocky but otherwise clueless Tyler Stone to the showers before the Sacramento personal chef even cooked one thing. We can’t disagree with the decision -- Stone was butchering a cut of pork the way Daniel Boone might have slaughtered a grizzly with a machete -- and hope that the cooking show’s ninth season won’t shy away from similarly unapologetic dismissals.

Given that 29 contestants must rapidly be reduced to 16 finalists this year, there’s a real necessity for ‘Top Chef’s’ arbiters to be judge, jury and executioner in one fell swoop.

Bravo’s popular cooking show prides itself on the courtesy it extends its contestants, even as they’re shown the door. While we’re not asking that ‘Top Chef’ adopt heartless, ‘Survivor'-style exits, the show in recent years has been mighty slow to separate some obvious chaff from the tastier wheat. It took eight episodes, for instance, in the last regular season of ‘Top Chef’ finally to be rid of Stephen Hopcraft.


Anyone who bothered (and we did) to watch some of the audition videos for ‘Top Chef: Texas’ could have spotted Tyler’s fate immediately. As in many reality shows, a ‘Top Chef’ contestant’s longevity is inversely related to how long he or she predicts he or she will stick around. In his tryout video, Tyler said, ‘this little dummy is going to cook you under the bus’ -- a strangely tortured metaphor -- while also boasting, ‘I have great knife skills,’ and, ‘I know I can hold my own.’

When he started butchering his pork, Tyler quickly retracted his audition hubris, telling Colicchio, ‘I’m not a butcher,’ preferring to have his proteins sent in nicely prepared by some unseen hand. ‘I know,’ Colicchio said. ‘But you’re a chef. And that’s a basic skill.’

It’s too early to say who the favorites might be, but given his looks, I’m betting that more than a few women (my wife included) are hoping that Chris Crary, who calls himself ‘a culinary artist,’ is around for more than a few weeks.

But if one of your favorites is sent the way of Tyler, don’t despair. For the first time, the exiled will have a chance to cook their way back into the competition in a future, Web-only segment called ‘Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen.’ It’s similar to the kind of pardon that allowed Hugh Acheson, who was booted at the start of the last ‘Top Chef: Masters,’ to come back into the kitchen. And now Acheson will be a judge on ‘Top Chef: Texas.’

Let’s hope he’s not too kind.


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-- John Horn