Houston Pick as City for Next 'Top Chef' Puts Hosts on the Defense

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday September 27, 2021
Originally published on September 25, 2021

"Top Chef" soon returns for Season 19, but some fans of the reality food competition are simmering with rage over its pick of Houston as its backdrop. Texas's recent passing of an anti-abortion law prohibits abortions as early as six weeks (before many women even know they're pregnant) and emboldens private citizens to sue providers and others. Host and judge Padma Lakshmi jumped into the fire to defend the show's decision to film there.

Fellow judge Gail Simmons weighed in, too, albeit with a taco shoved in her mouth, posting to Instagram, "As with every season, the goal of @bravotopchef is to tell the stories of our talented cheftestants, while exploring the culture, history and culinary heritage of our host city, and its significance within America's culinary landscape. Houston is no different.

"We committed to being here many months ago and for good reason: it's immensely diverse with vibrant immigrant populations that have shaped the way this city eats, in innovative ways all its own. Our show is about hard-working people and their passion for nurturing and feeding others. That's what makes it so special. So while here, I'll do everything I can to learn about local foodways and support the communities that need our attention most. I stand vehemently alongside those who oppose the regressive and unconstitutional laws restricting the voices, rights and personal choices of the people in this state."

The most stoic of the bunch, Tom Colicchio was less forthcoming, allowing others to do the talking, but re-tweeted a post from journalist Matt Ford from The New Republic about a Texas doctor who illegally performed an abortion then wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post.

Lakshmi is leveraging her visibility for action, urging her followers to "help Texans directly by donating to 9 Texas abortion funds." If each of her Twitter and Instagram followers donated a dollar, she'd be able to raise nearly $1.9 million.

"Top Chef" superfan advised producers about how to approach the show while advocating for women's reproductive rights, including everything from cooking for abortion clinic escorts to a mean for the Governor, "but when he lifts the cloche off his plate inside are pictures of the 60,000+ Texas citizens that have died of Covid."

It's unclear when season 19 will air, but based on previous seasons, fans can expect to see some of the country's best chefs throw down in Houston in early 2022.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.