The One Top Chef Contestant Who Has Been Disqualified

At the start of every season of Top Chef, some 15 to 21 contestants arrive on set, eager to flaunt their culinary chops. However, there are only a lucky few that make it all the way to the finale and ultimately, only one is crowned the champion. What happens to all of the other "cheftestants"? The majority of them are eliminated after losing cooking challenges, producing less-than-impressive dishes or breaking under the intense pressure of the show. A few have also chosen to leave, like Lee Anne Wong (the first pregnant contestant) who opted to depart the show due to altitude sickness.  

However, there's also another way to be kicked off the popular Bravo show: A contestant can be disqualified. These kind of scandals are rare, though — in all 17 seasons of Top Chef history, only one contestant has ever been disqualified for reasons not due to cooking. Here's what happened and what sent one cheftestant packing their bags before they were ready.

It started with a prank gone wrong

The first (and only) contestant to be disqualified from Top Chef actually happened very early on. In season two, a few contestants got drunk after the show one night and decided to pull a prank by shaving the head of fellow contestant Marcel Vigneron. As a result of the not-so-funny prank, ringleader Cliff Crooks was immediately removed from the show, per the legal rules of Top Chef, which explain that harming or threatening to harm another contestant is grounds for disqualification. "Once we saw the tape, we had absolutely no choice but to ask Cliff to leave," a Bravo producer wrote, adding, "I was very sorry to have to do so, as it was clear it was supposed to be a prank but it clearly went too far."

Fortunately, however, the same producer noted that Crooks handled himself "like a total gentleman" and that the exit was not as dramatic as you might assume. Since then, luckily no other heads have been shaven on the show and no other contestants have had to be disqualified (yet).