‘Top Chef’: Is the Cooking Reality Show Fake?

Reality TV is admittedly not for everyone, but when it comes to competition show that appeals to the masses, Bravo’s Top Chef is it. Each season, professional chefs go head to head on various cooking challenges to see who will come out on top — and the elimination challenges always ensure nail-biting finales. The show feels authentic and fresh with its mix of Top Chef hopefuls and reliable judges, and that’s part of the reason it continues to gather viewers each year. But now that it’s Season 16, fans are beginning to wonder how much of the show is fake.

From the judging to the bold personalities put forth on each episode, here’s what we know regarding the legitimacy of Top Chef.

The judges and hosts aren’t necessarily impartial to the contestants

We’re told over and over again that the Top Chef judges only care about the food that’s offered, but some contestants have mentioned that’s not necessarily true. Back in 2009, contestant Ash Fulk told E! News that host Padma Lakshmi never liked him as a person, and it was clear through her tone and body language. “The whole season, I kept running up against her. Her and I definitely didn’t get along. I don’t think she liked anything I made the whole time,” Fulk said.

Not only that, but it seems there’s definitely been tension in the past between the judges, too. Mashed notes a Reddit user claiming to be on the show said it was clear during various times of shooting that Lakshmi was not a huge fan of chef Tom Colicchio, a regular judge.

The producers may cater more to contestants who are good TV

It is TV, after all — and while fans love to think there’s no contestant bias from producers, they need to make the show interesting to watch to keep viewership. For that reason, the contestant claiming to be on the show took to Reddit to claim the producers gave the hot-headed contestants extra camera time simply because they drove a plot and provided them with entertaining footage, Mashed notes. The contestant also claimed that they were taken out of the competition earlier than expected because they were put up against someone with a bigger personality. For this reason, the show wanted to keep the big personality for viewership reasons.

Editing has been heavily used in the past when one contestant was too good

Sometimes one chef is a clear standout to win — and if fans knew this from the start, there’d be no reason for them to continue watching. Such was the case with Season 9 winner Paul Qui, who Tom Colicchio calls “the most talented chef that we’ve ever had on the show,” The Huffington Post reports. Qui won eight of the 16 possible elimination challenges, so to keep viewership, Colicchio noted some strategies had to be used during filming. “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,” Colicchio added.

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant says he was bullied into not contacting the outside world

It’s natural to have some contestants upset with the way shows are run, but one chef on Top Chef: Just Desserts revealed a seriously dark tale involving the filming of the show. The New York Post notes contestant Seth Caro was completely manipulated by the producers into staying on the show and having no contact with the outside world. He even noted when one contestant was severely injured and had to be taken to the ER, they wouldn’t allow her to call her family. “She was given an ultimatum: She could either compete on the show or leave, but she would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and never sue — and she had to decide now,” Caro said.

Caro also noted when he finally had had enough of the show and attempted to leave, he “was physically prevented from doing so.” He also added, “They are playing with people’s lives. I’ve been destroyed by the experience.”

There are scripted aspects of the show

Many parts of Top Chef are spontaneous, but when it comes to judging, it’s not all off the cuff commentary. NOLA.com notes the show has “elaborately staged and produced segments featuring the show’s judges.” And the news site also notes that when the judges are speaking to the contestants directly, they often have to retake the shot even after the contestants are dismissed from that scene. As for what the chefs have to say while they’re cooking, it appears that might all be totally real, however.

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