‘Top Chef’: The Show’s ‘Most Talented Chef’ Won Tom Colicchio’s Least Favorite Season

Top Chef is one of the longest-running cooking competition TV shows on the air today. Debuting in 2006 on the Bravo channel, the reality television series focuses on contestants who compete against one another to win the coveted title of Top Chef, along with a $125,000 cash prize.

The head judge, Tom Colicchio, has been with the show since the series began. Next month, Season 18 of the popular competition will once again get underway. The celebrity chef is eager to get back to critiquing the culinary skills of some of America’s finest talent.

Colicchio has accumulated quite a bit of memorable moments over the years. While some seasons were phenomenal, the owner of Crafted Hospitality admits that one season, in particular, was the absolute worst.

“Hands up, utensils down!”

Tom Colicchio
Tom Colicchio | Nicole Weingart/Bravo

The  award-winning Bravo channel series coined the pop-culture phrase, “Hands up, utensils down!” Contestants from across the country come together for Quickfire Challenges and endless elimination rounds. Some of the winners go on to crush it in the kitchen.

Chef Michael Voltaggio beat out the competition in season six of Top Chef and is currently building an impressive food empire. He is a regular on Food Network cooking shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Chef.

Winner of the season eight all-star competition, Richard Blais, has written a cookbook, owns several restaurants, and frequently appears as a celebrity chef on morning talk show television programsHe also hosted the first season of the Halloween Baking Championship on the Food Network.

Stephanie Izard became the first woman to claim the Top Chef title and is currently running three highly successful Chicago restaurants. Several years ago, she won the Food Network’s Iron Chef Gauntlet.

While there are many stories of accomplishment, there are a few contestants that lost their way. Paul Qui, the winner from season 9, was not as fortunate as these successful culinary entrepreneurs.

Tom Colicchio’s least favorite season

According to the Huffington Post, Colicchio once confessed that Season 9 was his least favorite season of the entire series. He was dealing with personal health issues, and the filming took place in Texas, where it was “extremely hot.”

Despite not liking the season, he did declare Qui his favorite Top Chef winner. That is big praise considering the number of talented chefs that have come through his kitchen.

Colicchio explained, “Paul Qui, who won that season, I think is the most talented chef that we’ve ever had on the show.” He explained, “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.”

‘Top Chef’: What Paul Qui is up to now

After winning Top Chef: Texas in 2011, Qui was a force to be reckoned with. The up-and-coming chef was at the top of his game, receiving rave reviews. He opened several restaurants in Austin, Texas, and another in Miami, Florida.

Five short years later, his world fell apart. He was arrested and charged with assault in Texas after an intense physical altercation with his then-girlfriend. The charges were eventually dropped after she refused to testify, but his life changed forever.

As the country was reeling from the #MeToo movement, the celebrity chef found it hard to find his footing again. It seemed his five minutes of fame was over.Eater reported:

“Paul Qui, is arguably, the best example of what occurs when people decide that they no longer want to support someone who has been credibly accused of domestic violence. The glowing reviews he once earned from restaurant critics are now accompanied by hand-wringing essays about how to praise a man accused of beating a woman, and some diners and journalists swore that they’d never set foot in the restaurant, no matter how great the food was.”