Bravo's Top Chef Season 16 is in the bag after a thrilling run in Kentucky, with Padma Lakshmi bestowing the coveted title on Kelsey Barnard Clark (who also scored as the season's Fan Favorite winner). Joining Kelsey in the final three were Eric Adjepong and Sara Bradley — and they all sat down with The Feast to share behind-the-scenes intel from their experience on the show.
We asked the three finalists: What's something fans of the show just don't get — or get wrong — about what actually happens behind the scenes of the competition? And their answers were rather illuminating.
Off the bat, Kelsey noted, "They don’t understand the headspace that we’re in. They’re seeing us cry and they’re like, 'What a baby.' And I'm like, 'I will slap you — you have no idea how hard it is to keep it together for that long.'"
Sara also shared a lot of her own thoughts about crying in the kitchen — and the larger issues behind showing it.
Kelsey continued, "You’re on an island, you have no communication with anybody. I remember telling somebody that we didn’t have music. And they were like, 'I would go crazy without music.' And I was like, 'OK, well imagine all the other things [we lived without] — you have nothing. You’re just like in seclusion for eight weeks. You go hours without being able to speak to each other."
For her part, Sara said the hardest part was "no news." She told The Feast, "I wake up early and I read the news [when not filming] and it was really hard for me to not know what was going on outside of Top Chef." Indeed, the lack of instant access to news created an "eerie" environment on the day Anthony Bourdain died; the final three also revealed to us how they finally learned that tragic news.
Eric also noted the lack of music: "Do you know how quiet the day is when you don’t have music?" And he also shared a behind-the-scenes nugget that fans many not know — but might be happy to learn.
Eric said he got so much from the "'family meals' that we had that no one gets to see a lot. That’s where we learned the most about each other outside the competition. Having those really great moments isn’t something you see so much of [on TV]. That’s something that I loved every time we had a day off — we'd get some food together and eat."
And, in the end, that's what Top Chef's all about after all: quality food, and the profound significance of sharing it with others.
—Reporting by Laura Rosenfeld
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