Top Chef Texas - Pack your speech quirks and go

Howdy, Top Chef fans! I bet you didn't see this coming; frankly, neither did I. Let's make some blog magic happen.

Things are going to run a little differently than they did in seasons past. I'm not taking notes, so this will be more analysis than recap. Call it a spoon-drag of consciousness approach. And anyway, there's no way in hell I'm going to try to keep up with the bios of all twenty-nine preliminary contestants.

Many of these early hopefuls were pretty obnoxious, and the knobbiest of those range knobs was shown the sad side of the glass doors exiting the Top Chef Kitchen: Tyler Stone, toothful braggart who would have been subject to numerous Justin Bieber jokes from me had he advanced. (Let's see how long chin-wobbling Edward Kim and Janine Falvo's clenched jaw survive in the Stew Bubble.)

As a Seattle fan, I'm bummed that 75% of that city's chefs were dispatched. Especially Nina Vicente, who had the worst case of timer blinders ever, leaving the rabbit off of the plate in her rabbit challenge. My two early favorites--or at least the chefs I'm rooting for--are Nyesha Arrington, whose resume is impressive; and Keith Rhodes, who turned a prison education in cooking into a successful career as a chef.

Of the rest, I have mixed emotions. Two MOTO chefs are among the official 16; Chris Jones has an odd attitude, and Richie Farina walks like he has to poop. But I dig MOTO's head honcho, Homaro Cantu, so I'm hopeful that these guys can pull off some intriguing plates. Chris Crary is shaping up to be this year's Angelo, though I find it unlikely that Crary will grow on me in any way.

I am fervently hopeful that Ty-Lör Boring sticks around, because I want to see if that ridiculous umlaut wanders around onto other letters in his name, like Richard Lewis' mole in Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

But this is a show that's at least 50% about food. I thought Dakota Weiss (a chocolate/vinegar combo?) and Ty-Lör (who, seriously, looks like he should be bare-knuckle boxing with John L. Sullivan, and it was a fish-sauced rabbit that raised my eyebrow) did way too much monkeying with their food, and yet the judges loved both plates. Both my wife and I are dubious of Emeril's ability to be a stern judge, but I'm looking forward to Hugh Acheson's critical debut. Should be fun. [Edit: I'm told he was a guest judge on Season 2 of Top Chef: Just Desserts, but I wouldn't know, because I've steered totally clear of that hot mess.]

I liked Keith's trio of rabbit preparations, both for how appealing it sounded and how challenging it must have been. Molly Brandt (fighting the preconceptions about cruise ship cuisine) seemed to be a real sourpuss early, but Tom's cold-blooded axing of Tyler and his butchery of butchery scared her into a more circumspect mood. I wished she'd made the pork cheeks more prominent; everyone loves a prominent pork cheek. (Don't think it's just me.)

This episode ended with the final one-third left to cook, plus the bubble round to fill out the official 16. With 11 already slotted, that leaves (by my estimation) four chefs from the last group and one from the bubble chefs yet to move on.

Reserving final judgment on this season's cast until then, I bid you adios until next week. Here's hoping for a strong season!