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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TOP CHEF Saddles up "TEXAS STYLE"

Photo courtesies Traci Davis TnT Ranch
Story By Roger Edison


The BRAVO Culinary hit "Top Chef" is coming to Texas for season nine. Filming in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, Bravo announced they will be adding two celebrity Chefs to the panel of judges. Emeril Lagasse along with Hugh Acheson will join the table with host, Padma Lakshmi, Chef Tom Colicchio and food critic Gail Simmons.


Chef Hugh Acheson competed during the third season on TOP CHEF MASTERS. He is the Chef and partner of Five and Ten, The National, Gosford Wine, and Empire State South restaurants. Acheson's combination of Southern style cooking mix with European flavors has made him a successful culinary artist.

Emeril is perhaps best known for his Cajun cultural cooking and slamming the "Bam" of spices in his dishes. His long time celebrity status has made him a favorite with Food Network shows, Emeril Live and the Essence of Emeril. Mastering unique Creole, Portuguese, French and Cajun cuisine, Emeril is more than a successful restaurateur and no new comer to the Lone Stat State.


Jim Hodges and Emeril Lagasse
In 2002, Emeril,  Cowboy Up when the Food Network filmed a piece called "Emeril Salutes America." The show was filmed in key locations across the United States including, San Francisco, Boston, Nashville, New Orleans, Houston, Seattle, Detroit, and finished with a special New York Cruise Special. The program aired from Sunday, September 29th through Sunday October 6th, 2002. 
The idea for the program came the year following a grieving nation due to the 9/11 incident that shocked a peaceful world with the extreme acts of terrorism. The show took the viewers back to the roots of the American Food Culture and what makes the nation great.
Part of the segments, included Chef Nick Castelberg assisted by Cowboy friend Jim Hodges. "I was lucky enough to be representing the “Cowboy” way of cooking," states Chef Nick. The producers of the show meet with Nick at the private ranch located outside of Houston, Texas. Several days later, in March 2002, Emeril arrived to begin filming the segment of Chuck Wagon cooking discussing the wholesome foods of the early cowboys who worked the cattle drives. 
"We had Buffalo Stew with beans cooked over the camp fire," states Chef Nick. "I made some 'special' biscuits from one of Emeril's recipes using the Dutch ovens loaded with bacon, onion and garlic. Oh, they were good and Emeril just love them! Then Emeril and I made a Peach cobbler together using strawberry jam as a thickener instead of starch. Man ole man, Emeril liked that too," Chef Nick continued. 
"The opening shot for the Texas segment was filmed with Emeril on horseback. That was done under the watchful eye of Jim Hodges, who is also a public speaker, author, teacher, entrepreneur, inventor, combat veteran of the Vietnam War, public servant that has worked professional security, law enforcement, and the military - all parallel to Jim's first passion - He's a great cowboy," states Chef Nick. 


"This was Emeril's first time in a saddle as he had never been on a horse before. At least he did not fall off but the producer was really afraid he would," stated Jim.
"Jim got him schooled up pretty quick, although Emeril still looked a little green on camera," confesses Chef Nick.  "After filming several hours at the ranch, we had some studio shots added later in the editing room for the program. The complete film crew along with Emeril had a ball filming this segment. Emeril is truly one of  nicest folks you will ever meet. Jim and I still hold that day as one of our greatest moments. Food is truly a global language and the legends of  Texas cowboys is also globally known.  I felt honored to represent Texas and the legendary Cowboys," concluded Chef Nick. 
Jim Hodges and Chef Nick Castelberg have shot several different films over the years. National and international T.V., Print, Voice over, Commercials, Historical reenactments are among the list of shows they have worked together own. 
Chef Nick began his cooking career after completing an enlistment in the United States Navy. He attended Culinary School before finding his dream as a private cook at the George Ranch Historic Park, located in Richmond, Texas. Although, he did admit to learning how to cook outdoors using a Dutch oven at age 12 when he was a Boy Scout.  Now mastering many recipes through the years and Cowboy Cuisine, Chef Nick has been often asked about recipes, and secrets to cooking where he first compiled a cook book, titled  "A Culinary Connection: 100 Years of Historic Meals" that is available through George Ranch.  Additionally, he was convinced to sell some of his rubs and sauces through the Ranch Gift shop before creating his own private line South Texas Trade Co.   that includes various rubs, Pinto beans seasoning and dried Salsa the requires adding a can of tomatoes and a cup beer that can go anywhere. The salsa is in two labels, Texas mild and full blown Triple XXX spicy hot.  


Texas was founded on a huge influence of world foods. First with native Americans followed by Spanish and French exploration before finally becoming settled by many European ancestors. Today, the Lone Star State shares a world influence while holding to it's roots of traditional Cowboy and Chuckwagon Cooking along with the best Texas-Mexican cuisines and Barbecues.

As Emeril learned the in's and outs of Cowboy cooking, it will be interesting to see how Hugh Acheson cowboys up. I don't believe riding a horse will be enough to top Emeril, so I expect to see Hugh ride out on a Texas Longhorn, but we will just have to wait and see if we find the cast of season nine all wearing Cowboy hats and boots as the Emmy-Award show "Top Chef" saddles up Texas style.

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