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Head judge Tom Colicchio wastes no time in breaking down the new cheftestants.

By Tom Colicchio

I'd like to go briefly into the casting for the season, because this is by far the deepest level of talent that we've had. We asked chefs that we know, that we're friends with, to nominate other chefs. We were picking from a pool of chefs that our trusted colleagues had worked with, that they knew -- chefs who would be able to compete. That's the real strategy -- everybody should be able to compete.

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In past seasons, it was pretty obvious that some people could NOT match up with the more experienced chefs. We wanted to deepen the pool, and this is one way we went about doing it.


Why Miami? We shot this in April, but the show will air over the summer and we wanted a warm weather destination, with a rich food culture, that looks like summer. Shooting in New York or Chicago in April, when people are still wearing sweaters and coats, just doesn't make for a good show. In New York, we've seen snow in April. The best part is that Miami's Latin influence plays an important part in many of the challenges.

These chefs had seen two seasons of "Top Chef." And so, it was surprising to us that they were actually surprised when we put them immediately into a Quick Fire. I was shocked. What were they expecting?


The challenge included an odd bunch of ingredients; however, it was about cooking, not how bizarre the food is. The choice of who to eliminate came down to Howie and Clay. Before we made our deciaion we checked the challenge rules, which showed us that we had enough latitude to keep Howie. Let's be honest, the food he gave us was still much better than the dish Clay served despite Clay's using both ingredients.

Clay is a chef, he works in a respected restaurant. I think it was just nerves. This is TV, but this is also real life. The judges did not know much about Clay and first heard him talk about his father when we watched the episode.We didn't know any of this. He really bared his soul. This isn't all fun and games, and there's a real serious side to what we do.

Whether you call it an art or a craft, these are people who put in tons of hours to get where they get, and it's full of real life twists and turns. It was very touching, and I think that he has so much to live up to. I just think that nerves just got the best of him, but I'm sure that he is a very competent chef. Stay tuned. There's more to come.

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