Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. MST for the first episode of the 11th season of Top Chef. This season is set in New Orleans, and includes Colorado's own Travis Masar, formerly of Uncle and Aria restaurants.
In a sneak peek of the first show, Soiree in the Swamp, viewers can see the chefs in a swamp wearing Mardi Gras beads cooking dishes to highlight a local delicacy: turtle. Masar chooses to prepare a traditional Vietnamese konju with lemongrass and ginger.
"It's hard to get on the show, and to compete is even harder," Masar says. "I went into the show knowing that people might underestimate me, because I'm a small town Colorado white guy who cooks traditional Asian food."
Masar hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the show, he told the Denver Post. "I grew up in rural, southeast Colorado and my whole family grew up in small towns like Craig and Cañon City. And I think that's something that's never really truly been portrayed for a Colorado person that's been on Top Chef. I want to show that there are other cities out there and represent Colorado as a whole, not just Telluride or Vail or Denver."
"I'm excited to see where all this takes me," Masar continued in an Eater interview. "Eventually I plan on returning to Colorado."
Masar is joined by fellow chefs Jason Cichonski, who was recently named Philadelphia's Sexiest Chef, and Australian-born Janine Booth, who plans to open a restaurant in New York City at the end of this year, among many other James Beard award nominees and other notable restauranteurs.
Returning to the judges table this season are lead judge Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and chef/proprietor of 13 restaurants Emeril Lagasse, alongside host Padma Lakshmi. The winning Top Chef will receive a feature in Food & Wine Magazine, a showcase at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, and $125,000.