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Top Chef Shakes Up Judging Panel—Is Emeril Really In?

Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson Cindy Ord/Getty Images

To borrow the catchphrase of another reality show, one minute you're in and the next you're out.

That truth was brought home this morning, when Bravo announced some details for Top Chef's forthcoming ninth season, and, in welcoming two new judges to the fold, surreptitiously gave an old one the boot.

So who got the chop? And which superstar chefs are joining the panel? And where-oh-where will this season's cheftestants compete? Let's take these one at a time…

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Bam! Let's hope those Top Chef kitchens are fully stocked with garlic, because the granddaddy of all culinary superstars, Emeril Lagasse, is joining the Emmy'd cable hit as a full-time judge this season.

As for the other new face, well, it won't be so new to loyal viewers of the show.

Chef Hugh Acheson is the final addition to the judging panel, and in addition to being a current partner and chef at several Georgia restaurants, authoring a cookbook due out this fall and being the onetime contemporary chef pick of none other than Mario Batali, also previously competed on the Top Chef Masters series.

He didn't win. But he walked away with a hell of a parting prize. Both he and Lagasse will join returning head judge Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and, of course, Padma Lakshmi as the show's ultimate arbiters of taste.

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Which means one thing: bye-bye, Anthony Bourdain (at least as a full-timer). In this case, no reservations isn't exactly a good thing, as last season's Top Chef: All-Stars judge is curiously absent from Bravo's press release—though in fairness, it's probably nothing personal. The elusive fourth seat at the judge's table has rotated every season or two since Ted Allen bid adieu at the end of season four.

As for where the series will be set, the rumors are all true—this year's competition with its five-strong judges' table, is going deep in the heart of Texas and will take place in not one, but three separate cities: Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

They really do do things bigger there. No exact premiere date has been released, though the new season kicks off later this fall. The countdown to the first inevitable steak-grilling and chili challenges, meanwhile, kicks off right now.

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