Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Padma Lakshmi denies stereotypes in Top Chef Texas
Season 9 opts to cover the entire state with a broad stroke of the brush.
Top Chef: Texas debuts on November 2, and as Bravo describes it, it's "bigger in Texas." Texas overall, that is. Dallas, Houston, or Fort Worth aren't important as individual cities.
Co-host Padma Lakshmi tried to defend the upcoming season's transformation of Texas into a giant hee-haw rodeo on a media conference call on Tuesday, but ended up reinforcing the stereotypical thinking on the part of the producers. If you haven't seen the trailer yet (below), it's a parade of cowboy hats, bales of hay, and denim, like the denim dress Lakshmi wears.
Where previous seasons focused on a single city, Season 9 focuses on Texas as a whole. So why not a show placed in a single Texas city such as Houston or Dallas?
"We have to outdo ourselves every season, I don't know why you have to make this negative," Lakshmi said. "We don't think of it as stereotyping, we think of it as bigger than ever. I live in New York but I can't think of the last time I visited the Statue of Liberty. But of course the show is going to go to Ellis Island."
What were some of the stereotypes broken or upheld during the filming, asked Addie Broyles of the Austin American-Statesman.
"I didn't have any stereotypes in my mind," Lakshmi said. "The portions are bigger in Texas. The serving sizes are larger. If you're writing about our time in Austin, it's a great little town. Well, it's not even really that little. It's different from the rest of Texas."
But it sounded like Padma and company weren't able to gather much intelligence about the rest of Texas. Her impression of San Antonio seemed limited to a sashay down the Riverwalk, and she had nothing to say about Dallas-Fort Worth at all.
"I wish I had had more time to explore the city," she said about San Antonio. "... The unfortunate part is that we're working a lot, so it's kindof hard to get the flavor of a city in such a short time."
She reiterated the importance of showcasing Texas rather than cities within Texas. "... We're not there so much to highlight the city as we are to highlight the chefs in that city. But this season does have the traditional barbecue challenges -- you do see the things you expect to see that people do attach to Texas."
How will the show change the perception that Texas is all about beef & BBQ, asked a reporter from the San Antonio Express News. "I don't know if we played into it," Lakshmi said. "There is a challenge where we talk about ribs. Some things couldn't be avoided. There are some contestants from Texas -- they do more to dispel that notion than anything we did."
The contestants from Texas are Andrew Curren and Paul Qui from Austin.
The San Antonio Current has the right idea:
"I'll be playing my own Top Chef drinking game, taking a sip whenever anyone conspicuously dons an oversized cowboy hat, says something is 'bigger in Texas,' or finds another way to offend locals with well-worn stereotypes."