Expect some familiar sights on the December 1 premiere of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef.’ For one, this season is comprised of 18 ‘All Star’ chef’testants. Secondly, for season 8 the Emmy-winning show is returning to its season 5 locale: New York City.
Then there are the changes. Frequent guest judge Anthony Bourdain has been promoted to regular judge, alongside full timers Tom Colicchio, Gale Simmons, and host Padma Lakshmi. And with a few cooks benefiting from a bit of post-’Chef’ fame, let’s just say certain egos have been inflated — which will no doubt lead to some explosive spats.
“If you look at the players it is fair to extrapolate that it would not be unusual for some of these personalities to clash,” Bourdain teased.
Those players being Elia Aboumrad (Season 2), Stephen Asprinio (Season 1), Richard Blais (Season 4), Jennifer Carroll (Season 6), Tiffany Derry (Season 7), Tiffani Faison (Season 1), Carla Hall (Season 5), Mike Isabella (Season 6), Jamie Lauren (Season 5), Dale Levitski (Season 3), Antonia Lofaso (Season 4), Spike Mendelsohn (Season 4), Angelo Sosa (Season 7), Dale Talde (Season 4), Casey Thompson (Season 3), Marcel Vigneron (Season 2), Fabio Viviani (Season 5), and Tre Wilcox (Season 3).
On a recent conference call, Colicchio and Bourdain shared their insights on the upcoming season:
On How The Chef’testants Have Changed:
Colicchio: They all seem to have grown. Spike obviously has done a lot professionally – I think he’s doing really well. They’re cognizant they’re on TV now. Once you see yourself [on air] you rein it in a little bit. They’re more on top of their game.
On The Difficulties Of Judging:
Colicchio: We’re not allowed to interact with the contestants at all. Only on camera. After the season is over when we do the reunion we get to know them. Now you get to know them and you actually start to get to know them as your peers. That made it very difficult to judge them. If anything I think the judging is a little more constructive [this season]…You have to remind yourself to be as objective as possible. We kind of know them all, so it is an even playing field. You have to focus on the food and the food only.
On Playing Favorites:
Bourdain: I find Fabio very lovable. He’s an enormously likable guy. He’s charming. He’s Italian. I love Italian food. My wife’s Italian. If I’m bitter about anything in my life, it’s that I’m not Italian-American.
Watch Fabio’s Recall His Most Memorable Moment:
On Returning To New York:
Bourdain: I have no idea what the strategic thinking was, but it seemed to me as an outsider there was a real attempt to get New York right this time. Most of the challenges are really uniquely New York. They made an extra effort to capture that. It’s the big leagues and the show plays to that strength.
On The Chef’testants’ Heightened Competitive Spirit:
Colicchio: You’re playing with the best of the best. There’s a one- upmanship. You want your competitors thinking highly of you as well. The respect from your peers is as important as winning the show.
On Whether Bourdain Will Become A Permanent Regular Judge:
Bourdain: In a perfect world I’d be there all the time because I’m a huge fan and I enjoy hanging out with Tom. It’s really a matter of logistics. I’m shooting my other show ['Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations'] 175-225 days a year.
On This Season’s Surprises:
Bourdain: Given what we can and can’t say I think it would be fair to say there’s a lot of surprises on this season. [There were] People who were surprisingly strong and talented who fell down that you wouldn’t expect.
Are you looking forward to watching the ‘All Stars’ duke it out in the kitchen? Who do you think will prevail?