In 12 seasons as the head judge of 'Top Chef,' Tom Colicchio has overseen a number of talented chefs. But Colicchio revealed on HuffPost Live that his favorite was Season 9 winner Paul Qui.
Colicchio admitted that Season 9, which took place in Texas, was his least favorite, because it was extremely hot while shooting and the chef was dealing with health issues. But Qui, who won eight of that season's 16 elimination challenges, was a standout.
"Paul Qui, who won that season, I think is the most talented chef that we've ever had on the show," Colicchio told host Caitlyn Becker. "In fact, we had to dumb down how good he was, because it would've been pretty obvious that he was running away with everything."
Colicchio explained that building suspense was instrumental to the success of the show. "If you can figure out who's going to win 30 minutes into it, you turn off the TV. And so you have to keep the suspense going until the very very end."
The chef also talked about the process of judging each contestant's food and the discussion between contestants and judges near the end of most episodes.
"I'm always looking for intention — what was the chef's intention?" he said. "What are they trying to do? What are they trying to accomplish? And so that's a question that I'll ask."
He admitted that he doesn't mind when contestants push back on the judges' criticisms.
"As far as talking back, I really don't care at all if they talk back. I mean, it's actually fun, and I'd rather they fight for themselves. I'd rather them say, 'you know what? You're wrong.'"
But ultimately, Colicchio said, the deciding factor in sending chefs home is taste.
"You look at certain things: you look at whether or not they're cooking everything properly, whether or not something's seared nicely, how they're handling the ingredients, and then sort of how it all goes together, you look at proportions," he said. "But ultimately, it comes down to taste. And if it doesn't taste good — the worst dish is always going to go home."
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