The Biggest Mistakes Chefs Make On Top Chef, According To Tom Colicchio - Exclusive

When contestants first start competing against each other on Top Chef, they might not realize what they signed up for. The tiniest mistakes (like making risotto or straying slightly from the challenge requirements, according to Thrillist) have cost numerous cooks their spot in the show. Back in 2017, chef and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio addressed the biggest shortfall cooks face — knowing a few recipes and assuming they can cook anything (via Business Insider). Since then, he has gone on to judge even more breathtaking dishes and seriously difficult challenges, and has sadly seen more than a few contestants self-destruct in the Top Chef kitchen.

In order to gain some insight into what chefs should avoid during the culinary competition, Mashed sat down exclusively with chef Tom Colicchio to learn about the biggest mistakes he witnessed contestants make on the set of Top Chef. While no one committed the cardinal sin of turning in a risotto for appraisal lately, Colicchio had a few choice thoughts on some major pitfalls he has seen over the years.

Know your environment

For Colicchio, knowing how to push your boundaries yields some of the best results in the Top Chef kitchen, but going too far can lead to disaster. "I think the biggest mistake is often, sometimes chefs get out of their... comfort zone. Out of their core competency, and sometimes they try too hard," Colicchio said.

"They get over ambitious and they mess things up. They're not cooking in a vacuum, meaning they're not in their kitchen with nothing happening around them, and they're just kind of taking their time, which is the way you would cook if you were cooking at home or whatever. Even in a restaurant, it's so set up that you could do a lot. And these cooks are by themselves and they're running around."

The environment presents some very real challenges. "When you're in the Top Chef kitchen, your workstation is pretty far away from the stove, and so to have something on a stove and to not be really paying attention to it because you're rushing, you have to do something else, that's where the mistakes happen, and so it's tough," Colicchio continued. "The chefs that could keep track of time in their heads very quickly, when they could think of something that they're going to do and they can keep it simple... they make sure every step along the way, everything is correct, that's the chef who usually does well."

Don't try to show off every skill

When you have to race against the clock, keeping things simple often yields the best results. "Sometimes when you try too much, it's hard to accomplish that all, given the time constraints," Colicchio said. "I mean, the clock is not your friend. It's tough. Listen, Top Chef clearly favors a chef that could think fast on their feet. I know friends of mine that are some of the best chefs in the world, but they have to write out the dish, they have to try four or five times before it goes on the menu and they mess with it [and] mess with it. This wouldn't work for them, but there are certain chefs that could shoot from the hip and those are the chefs that do better on the show."

If you dream of being a contestant on Top Chef, take this advice to heart and you could end up winning your season. In the meantime, be sure to catch up on old episodes and tune in for the next season of Top Chef, premiering April 1st on Bravo, or try your hand at chef Tom Colicchio's newest sandwich collaboration with French's.