The Truth About The Infamous Top Chef Pea Purée Controversy

If you thought cooking shows were safe from all the drama that comes with reality TV, surely you haven't seen Season 7 of "Top Chef." It all unfolded in Episode 7 when Chef Alex Reznik allegedly stole the pea purée of his fellow contestant, Chef Ed Cotton, just minutes before it was time to serve their final dishes to the judges (via YouTube). Cotton was seen frantically searching the prep kitchen for the pea purée he had made the previous night, which mysteriously disappeared from his cooler around the same time Reznik began heating and plating his own pea purée. 

With no pea purée in sight aside from the one on Reznik's plates, Cotton was forced to serve non-puréed peas instead. Though Reznik never conceptualized his dish until the last minute, he landed himself in that week's Top 3, for what many believed was actually Cotton's pea purée. The judges loved it so much that Reznik went on to win the power lunch challenge entirely. As the episode progressed and speculation grew among the other contestants, the infamous "Peagate Scandal" was born.

Coincidence or sabotage?

After the episode aired, the consensus among viewers was that there was no way Alex Reznik had enough time to make a pea purée, especially since Ed Cotton made his the night before. But in the "Watch What Happens Special" following the season finale, Reznik explained that he made it as soon as he got to the restaurant. Amanda Baumgarten backed up his claim saying, "He made it right next to me. The first thing he did was get a blender out and blend peas."

As for where Reznik magically got peas, a non-pantry ingredient, it's not as much of a mystery as skeptics made it out to be. Like Cotton, Reznik actually purchased them during the shopping trip prior to the challenge, and even had chef Kelly Liken try them. "He definitely bought the peas because they weren't very good," Liken recalled on the "Watch What Happens Special" (via YouTube). Furthermore, as shown earlier in the episode the night before the alleged incident, Alex is seen brainstorming about his ingredients. "I have these English peas, but they're starchy," he told chef Kenny Gilbert and chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo.

What happened to the pea purée if Alex Reznik didn't steal it?

Chef Stephen Hopcraft believes it was his own fault that Cotton's pea purée went missing, and fessed up to it off-camera. In an interview with TV Guide, Hopcraft shared, "I even told Ed I blame myself for it, because me, Ed, and Angelo shared a cooler that day, and I was the first one in the cooler and pulled some of my ingredients out, and maybe I didn't put his pea purée back in."

Whether it was Hopcraft or Reznik that was responsible, unfortunately, there's no footage of any pea purée being made or stolen. One of the show's judges Tom Colicchio took to the Bravo blog to clarify how seriously they take cheating on the show, and if the producers witnessed Alex Reznik doing so, he would've been automatically disqualified.

Considering Ed Cotton wore a "Where's my pea purée?!?!" shirt to the "Watch What Happens Special," it's safe to say their rivalry has ultimately calmed down.  As Alex Reznik recalled in "Remembering Pea Purée," the two of them eventually had a good laugh out of it once the truth was out in the open.