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Tom Colicchio & Gail Simmons Reveal the Biggest Mistakes Top Chef Contestants Make

The Bravo’s Top Chef judges open up about common errors they see in the kitchen each season.

Style Living Tc Tom Colicchio Gail Simmons Chef Mistakes

Each season of Bravo’s Top Chef typically brings new locations, new challenges, and, inevitably, some new drama. However, the judges have come to expect certain things year after year: The cheftestants will have incredible talent, and many of them will make some very familiar mistakes.  

As contestants adapt to the unique aspects of the competition, some may end up underperforming in terms of culinary basics. “It comes down to two things: Is something seasoned properly [and] is it cooked properly?” Tom Colicchio told at NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation on May 16. “From there, we can look at the challenge, we can look at context clues like that, but it’s really seasoning and if something’s cooked properly.”

Of course, there are several other facets to succeeding in a Top Chef challenge. “If you look at the kitchen, often [the chefs] are working at their station, and they have a pot... on the stove that’s about 30 yards away,” he continued. “It’s really hard to figure it all out and keep it all going, so it’s really, really challenging.”

Confidence is a major key to succeeding on Top Chef, and the wrong rash decision can be the reason cheftestants end up packing their knives. “I think also second-guessing yourself [is a common mistake], because you don’t have enough time,” Tom said. “You have to think of something quickly, commit to it, and see it through.” 

Gail Simmons noted that cheftestants tend to “really underestimate the clock” during challenges. “Time moves at triple pace in that kitchen,” she said. “That, I think, is the hardest thing for chefs to really understand. Every time, no matter how many times they test themselves, every chef who comes into our kitchen walks out saying, ‘That was the fastest, hardest thing I’ve ever done.’”

Top Chef is streaming on Peacock and available on the Bravo app.

— Reporting by McKenzie Jean-Philippe

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