Top Chef is one of the most beloved cooking competition shows, and let’s be honest, that’s saying a lot because there are so many good ones on TV these days. Lucky for devoted fans, the show has been making headlines quite a bit this week already. Yesterday, it was announced that there will soon be another spinoff called Top Chef Junior, and even if the kid angle is a much-recycled show concept, we’re still eager to see what Universal Kids, a new network launching this September, does with it. Last week was also the first week of filming in Denver for the show's 15th season. In honor of production beginning in the city, Eater Denver sat down with the show's head judge, Tom Colicchio, to find out some of the Top Chef secrets. And, really who better to reveal them than the man who has been there since the show's beginning in 2006.
Though Top Chef is kind of like a gameshow, the rules seem to be surprisingly strict. Unlike with other competition shows such as Next Food Network Star where the judges get to enjoy some lighthearted banter with the contestants, the judges on this Bravo favorite keep to themselves. Colicchio told Eater, "They are not allowed to even say hello to us if we are off camera." Not only that, the show takes this rule even further by having someone around the contestants constantly to ensure they don't speak to the judges. It's a little extreme, but running interference between competing chefs and judges does sounds like a pretty exciting job.
Another interesting tidbit Tom Colicchio revealed in his Eater interview is that the judges don't see any of the scenes leading up to the judging like the viewers at home do. For instance, he said, "I have no idea what is going on right now while they are shopping. I don’t know what is going on tonight when they go home. We don’t get that information. We don’t want it.” That, of course, means that if something goes horribly, horribly wrong with a contestant's trip to the grocery store, the judges won't give that person any stack because they simply won't know what has gone down. Bravo wants to keep things as tough as possible it seems.
All of that info if interesting, but if we're honest with ourselves the thing we really want to know about on any cooking competition show is the food. And, thank goodness, Tom Colicchio indulged our curiosity by sharing which meal has been his favorite in the past 14 seasons of the show. The dish came from Paul Qui, season nine's winner, and it was root vegetables and dashi, the broth used as the base in miso soup. That may sound terribly simple, but Colicchio says it was extremely flavorful, and we're incline to believe the veteran Top Chef judge. Seeing as he's now filming season 15, we're pretty sure he know what he's talking about.