Meet Chicago's "Top Chef" hopefuls

"Top Chef: Texas" debuts Nov. 2 with double the chefs vying for a spot

  • Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio return to judge the ninth season of Bravo TV's "Top Chef." Meet the show's six Chicago hopefuls in our photo gallery.
Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio return to judge the ninth…
November 01, 2011|By Lisa Arnett, RedEye

In past seasons of “Top Chef,” we’ve had one, two or sometimes zero Chicagoans to root for. On the upcoming ninth season filmed in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, we have a whopping half dozen -- but there’s no telling how long they’ll stick around.  

Because everything’s bigger in Texas, the producers decided to start the show with 29 hopefuls who have to cook their way into 16 cheftestant spots. In other words, mass elimination on the first episode, airing 9 p.m. CST Nov. 2.

Though the bigger group was intimidating, Chicago’s hopefuls were ready to bring it.  “I feel … grateful that I’m part of a season that’s different than the rest. More competitive and bigger and badder,” said Chicago hopeful Beverly Kim. Fellow hopeful Sarah Grueneberg also acknowledged a key point: “I think it’s a great idea because it tests people’s cooking skills, not just their personality.”

In addition to new judges Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson and celebrity guests such as Pee-wee Herman and Charlize Theron, this season also has another twist: Eliminated cheftestants will compete in “Last Chance Kitchen” webisodes hosted by head judge Tom Colicchio for a chance to return to the show and potentially qualify for the finale.

“It addresses the person whom the viewer thinks got a raw deal or maybe they were more talented and they were kicked out too soon,” Colicchio said.

The biggest deal for Chicago, however, might be that of our six hopefuls, two are from the same restaurant, the West Loop den of culinary wizardry that is Moto. Though this sounds like a Voltaggio brothers set-up to us, the judges wouldn’t let on as much. “It never really came up,” said Colicchio. “I don't think it really affected that much,” echoed host Padma Lakshmi.

Well Tom and Padma, we’ll just have to see about that.

>>Meet your six Chicago hopefuls for “Top Chef: Texas” in our photo gallery.

>>Watch casting videos for all 29 hopefuls on

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