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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Tom Colicchio Breaks Down Exactly How He Judges the Food on Top Chef

The Top Chef judge explains the many factors that he considers when evaluating cheftestants' dishes. 

By Abby Feiner
Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio Share Everything You Need to Know About Top Chef 18

When Tom Colicchio is evaluating cheftestant dishes on Top Chef, the judge takes many, many factors into consideration. 

How to Watch

Watch the Top Chef Season 21 premiere on Wednesday, March 20 at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

"For me, the criteria [is] is something cooked properly, is it seasoned properly? That's where we start," Tom told Mashed in a recent interview. "And then after that, then it's, 'Did they adhere to the challenge? How interesting is the dish at that point?'"

Food trends have often differed from season to season on the show, something that excites Tom most of the time as a judge. "The cool thing is over the years, I mean, 17 seasons, and I think it's 13 years, you see trends come and go, which is kind of neat," he said. "The molecular gastronomy was kind of hot for a couple of seasons, and thank God that's gone."

Tom doesn't just judge the chefs' dishes, but also takes every opportunity to help them improve their skillset for life beyond the show. "I try to treat each chef [like] they're cooks in my kitchen," he explained. "So, part of what I do... And a lot of this, it doesn't make the cut. A part of it is not just teaching them. Not just critiquing them, but really trying to mentor them and try to sort of help them, and often at the end of the season, we hear from all the chefs said, 'Hey, thanks for the comments, and I think I'm a better cook now.' And when we see them years later, they feel good about the time they spent there. I mean, it's like going through bootcamp — it's hard."

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