Ten years deep, Top Chef is still one of the most prestigious cooking competition shows on television – and that’s far from hyperbole.
The show continuously brings in the top executive and sous chefs in the country to compete – of course, with some talented line cooks, pastry chefs, and self-taught cooks in the mix as well.
Talking to judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons over the phone, they told JustJared.com that early on, they were skeptical about how the industry would perceive the show.
“I remember in our very first season being really nervous, Tom and I talking about what if the industry laughs at us? What is this doesn’t work?” Gail said. “And the exact opposite happened. They saw that we were a show about real restaurant chefs, chefs who do this every day. Because we set that standard…it made the industry take notice.”
Tom told us, “I always said I wanted a show I could be proud of and that my peers want to come on. And I knew right away when I started getting calls from chefs like Daniel Boulud saying, ‘Can I come on?’ That’s when you know you have something.”
To-date, the show has 25 Emmy nominations under its belt with two wins – one for Outstanding Picture Editing For Reality Programming in 2008 and one for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program in 2010, the latter beating out The Amazing Race and ending its seven-year winning streak in the category.
“I don’t think there’s any other competition show out there that can quantify the number of successful contestants,” Gail said. “How people have become household names and opened restaurant empires from coast to coast.”
She’s of course referring to people like Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard, Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, Mike Isabella, Fabio Viviani, and countless more, all of whom have opened successful restaurants across the country.
Not to mention, season five and eight’s Carla Hall is one of the co-hosts on ABC’s The Chew.
“What I like about it is that every season is different. We’re always trying something different, so every season is new,” Tom said. “And for other personal reasons, it’s like going to summer camp. We shoot for about six weeks, tops. For ten years, it’s a lot of the same people on the team…It’s sort of like seeing old friends that you see once a year. It’s a lot of hard work, but we have a lot of fun together afterward – a lot of the team are musicians and I play guitar and sing, so we get together and play.”
But that’s not the only thing that keeps him coming back to judges’ table.
“Knowing you can make a difference in someone’s life…that’s the kind of stuff that you look back on,” Tom told us. “You don’t think about it so much until someone tells you what the show means to them. That’s something you can’t throw away and take for granted. To look back over 10 years and 14 seasons, those are the moments I’ll remember.”
Top Chef premieres TONIGHT, December 1 @ 10/9c on Bravo.
ALSO MUST READ: The judges dish on their favorite seasons, chefs, and more!
Click inside to see the rest of our conversations with the Top Chef judges… More Here! »