- Season 16 of “Top Chef” premiered December 6.
- In Season 16, “Top Chef” producers wanted to shed light on an “underdog” culinary region, which led them to choose Kentucky.
- Host Padma Lakshmi once appeared in the cult Mariah Carey film “Glitter.”
- Head judge Tom Colicchio considers “Top Chef: Texas” winner Paul Qui the most talented chef they’ve ever had on the show.
Every foodie’s favorite reality TV show, “Top Chef,” premiered its 16th season on December 6. For those of you who can’t wait for the return of Padma, Tom, and all the new cheftestants, here’s some “Top Chef” trivia to get you up to speed and fully prepped for the new episodes.
Host Padma Lakshmi appeared in the cult Mariah Carey film “Glitter”.
Padma Lakshmi has hosted “Top Chef” since its 2nd season, but long before her Bravo kitchen debut, she played a supporting role in the cult-classic, Razzie-winning Mariah Carey film known as “Glitter.”
She played Syik, a pop star whose terrible voice is dubbed over by Mariah’s character Billie’s fabulous singing skills.
All of Lakshmi’s dialogue needs to be vetted by the “Top Chef” legal team, so she wears an earpiece during filming.
- Theo Wargo/Getty Images
According to Entertainment Weekly, in a conversation between “Top Chef’s” Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons and renowned chef Eric Ripert, it was revealed that Bravo’s legal team insists that Lakshmi wear an earpiece on-air when she describes the challenges, allowing them to hear her dialogue and feed her any necessary corrections.
Lakshmi said she gains between 10 and 17 pounds every season.
- Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
As their jobs require them to taste all cheftestant-prepared dishes during filming, it stands to reason that the “Top Chef” judges may put on a bit of weight by the end of the season.
According to Lakshmi, she gains about 10-17 pounds during each run of shooting.
During past seasons, Lakshmi said that she took extreme steps to lose the weight, trying everything from cleanses to draconian fitness regimens. However, she recently told the Hollywood Reporter that she no longer intends to invest significant energy into whittling her figure down in time for the Emmy Awards, citing her young daughter as a source of inspiration.
“This year, I’ve decided my weight will not be my focus. If I need a bigger dress, so be it. That one day – or any day – on the red carpet isn’t nearly as important as making sure my daughter doesn’t measure her worth by her dress size,” Lakshmi said.
Contestants cite physical fitness as one of the most important elements to succeeding on the show.
If a prospective “Top Chef” contestant wants to make a strong showing during the competition, they need to display major culinary chops, remarkable creativity, and a superhuman level of endurance to carry them through each round.
According to past contestants Shirley Chung and season 14 winner Brooke Williamson, these trials require enormous stamina, so getting yourself in shape counts among the most important ways to prepare.
Chung told Delish that she increased her weekly gym sessions from three to six prior to her “Top Chef” runs, and Williamson became a SoulCycle devotee in the months leading up to her time on the show.
Season one contestant Lee Anne Wong became the show’s culinary producer for the next four seasons.
After making it to the Final Four during the inaugural “Top Chef” season, Lee Anne Wong decided to take her on-the-scene knowledge of the show and try a new career as “Top Chef” culinary producer.
For seasons two through seven, Wong used her insider understanding of the contestant experience to develop the show’s challenges, source and style ingredients, and help set budgets and time limits.
Season one winner Harold Dieterle quit the restaurant business in 2015.
- Facebook/Kin Shop
New York chef Harold Dieterle became the first-ever “Top Chef” champion in 2006, and he followed his victory by opening a number of acclaimed eateries in NYC, including Perilla, Kin Shop, and The Marrow. However, in 2015, Dieterle decided to shutter Perilla and Kin Shop after The Marrow’s 2014 closing.
When asked for his reasoning, Dieterle explained to New York Eater that “it’s gotten to the point where I’m not having fun and enjoying myself. I’m not saying I never want to return to the restaurant business, but right now, I’m feeling a little beat up and a little tired.”
Dieterle did make a brief return to the NYC food scene in 2017 with the opening of Tali, a gluten-free Italian spot, but after Tali’s 2018 shuttering, he hasn’t announced any intention to return to the restaurant game.
“Top Chef: All-Stars” champ Richard Blais got his culinary career started at McDonald’s.
- Caroline Attwood/Unsplash
“Top Chef” molecular gastronomy whiz kid and “Top Chef: All-Stars” winner Richard Blais has an illustrious fine-dining pedigree, including training from Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and ownership of his own restaurants in Atlanta, San Diego, and Nashville.
However, Blais started his culinary journey at a somewhat lower-brow establishment – McDonalds. According to Bravo TV, “He began his career, as so many young aspiring chefs do, as the ‘poissonier’ at McDonald’s. It was here where he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine, serving ‘filet-o-fish’ sandwiches sans top bun.”
Head judge Tom Colicchio considers “Top Chef: Texas” winner Paul Qui the most talented chef they’ve ever had on the show.
- David Moir/Bravo
“Top Chef” famously sources contestants from highly-rated kitchens across the nation, and each season features enormously talented chefs.
However, when asked to select his pick for the most skilled culinary impresario ever to appear on the show, head judge Tom Colicchio had a clear answer: Season nine champion Paul Qui.
In an interview with HuffPost Live, Colicchio stated that Austin-based Qui is “the most talented chef that we’ve ever had on the show. In fact, we had to dumb down how good he was because it would’ve been pretty obvious that he was running away with everything.”
In season 16, “Top Chef” producers wanted to shed light on an “underdog” culinary region, which led them to choose Kentucky.
“Top Chef” regularly makes use of the unique atmospheres of its host regions, setting challenges in local restaurants and markets and inviting hometown-hero chefs to serve time on the judging panel.
When it came time to choose a location for season 16, “Top Chef” producers wanted to select an area with a reputation as a culinary “underdog.” In contrast to high-profile foodie towns like New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, season 16’s action takes place in Kentucky, a state famous for its bourbon production, but slightly less renowned for its restaurant scene.
“Location is such an important part of every season … One of the things [that] has kept the show feeling fresh over many, many seasons now – 16 seasons – is that every season there’s a different place to tap into the food culture and history. So we try and think about that. We try to think about, first of all, places we haven’t been, stories we haven’t told. For example, somewhere like Kentucky [is] an unexpected choice. And in fact, I literally had to do an interview with a journalist in Philadelphia and a journalist in Atlanta who were both going like, ‘What the hell? You’re going to Kentucky and you haven’t been to our city yet?'” Cutforth told Bravo TV about the decision.
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