Here's How To Get Cast On Top Chef

Bravo's "Top Chef" has been entertaining foodies and reality television fans alike since its premiere in March 2006 (via IMDb). Now in its 18th season, the program has seen a total of 244 "cheftestants" (via Top Chef Stats) compete in some major food cities throughout the United States including New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, as well as some lesser-known hot spots like Kentucky, which Insider noted was specifically chosen as a filming location for its "underdog" status in the culinary world. Each episode sees the chefs battle it out in both a quickfire and elimination challenge that is typically tailored to the season's location, and ultimately ends with at least one competitor being served longtime host Padma Lakshmi's signature phrase: "Please pack your knives and go," until, finally, a winner is crowned.

Needless to say, the journey to becoming Top Chef is no cakewalk, but it's certainly sweet if you can make it to the end. Of course, before earning the title of "Top Chef," one has to actually get cast on the show in the first place, which can be a challenge in and of itself — chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, for example, was a finalist in "Top Chef" Season 13, but not before having her application denied three seasons prior (via Bon Appétit). So what exactly goes into getting cast on the Emmy-award-winning cooking competition? Filling out a lengthy application is just the start.

You'll need to have some time on your hands to fill out an application for "Top Chef"

When's the last time you had a job application with 117 questions on it? If you're a U.S. resident over the age of 18 (via Bravo), that's what's in store for you if you think you've got what it takes to be on "Top Chef." Or, at least, what awaits you if you want to compete in season 19, as Bravo notes that the casting process will be done entirely remotely due to COVID-19.

The application starts off with a few standard questions like name, birthdate, and hometown before getting some information about your experience as a chef — including questions that delve into your cooking philosophy and which chefs you find to be "overrated" and your "biggest rivals" in your city. There's also space for you to share photos and descriptions of four of your "best plated dishes" and a sample menu. Three more sections follow that include questions about your personality, television experience, and references. Whew!

Believe it or not, season 19's online application, which Bon Appétit says equates to 18 pages, is actually a little easier than what it was in years past. This version for "Top Chef" season 13 asks for even more photos of completed dishes, as well as a five to 10-minute video with its own lengthy set of parameters.

What comes next for potential "Top Chef" contestants

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, potential contestants that had their applications accepted underwent a background check and were then flown out for on-camera interviews with producers, as well as an in-person psychological evaluation (via Bon Appétit). Season 15 competitor Bruce Kalman told Bravo that his audition process also included Skype interviews — something that likely dominates the procedure now.

A waiting period of a few weeks follows until the call finally comes in, though it's not always one with good news. Along with the aforementioned Marjorie Meek-Bradley, chefs Brother Luck, Tu David Phu, and Carrie Baird also went through the entire application process one or more times before finding out they didn't make the cut (via Bon Appétit and Bravo). 

If you are a recipient of a happier phone call from the "Top Chef" producers, be warned that you'll be leaving behind your restaurants, friends, and families for several weeks, and potentially at the drop of a hat. Meek-Bradley told Bon Appétit that she was in the middle of service when she got the news that she was (finally) cast on the cooking competition, and had to leave for filming just 10 days later. Hopefully, it'll all be worth it in the end!