The 4 Top Chef Contestants Tom Colicchio Wanted To Send Home At The Same Time

Chef Tom Colicchio has spoken many times about how tough it is to eliminate talented chefs on the "Top Chef" cooking competition. As an audience we know just how difficult it is to watch our favorites fail, but ultimately the food decides. There was one infamous incident on the show, however, when Chef Colicchio was ready to send the entire remaining cast home — that's four competitors at once.

Longtime fans have probably guessed it: the infamous head shaving incident of Season 2 (via Bravo). 'Twas the night before finals, and chefs Ilan Hall, Sam Talbot, Elia Aboumrad, and Cliff Crooks were drinking in the cookhouse. Season 2 foil Marcel Vigneron was sleeping nearby. What happened next prompted Chef Colicchio to request that the rowdy 4-pack all be sent home at the same time for a prank gone wrong that has many of us cringing like the memory of an awkward teenage slumber party.

As concisely as possible: The cast was down to the final five. Everyone had a break from cooking while awaiting elimination and movement on to the finals. All season long it was "the cast" vs. Marcel. Post production, Marcel decided to nap on the couch while the remaining four contestants got their drink on, and spontaneously decided to hold a head shaving party. Someone decided to cut Marcel's hair, too — while he was sleeping and without his permission. Everything spiraled. Cliff Crooks went home.

Chef Colicchio was ready to send the other three home as well, but there were some mitigating factors.

The incident leaves as many questions as answers

Getting drunk and getting haircuts wasn't exactly against the rules, but it wouldn't have pleased the production crew, per producer Shauna Minoprio (via Bravo). Says Minoprio, "The next morning, I got a call from a field producer who had arrived at the loft to find Elia and Ilan without any hair. I was furious with them as I felt it was kind of a juvenile prank to pull which undermined the dignity of the show (little did I know there was much worse to come)."

The producer notes that this was the only time the production crew wasn't filming for the evening during the whole season, but they were still sleeping nearby. No one told them anything. Says Minoprio, "Marcel did not come to the production team at any point the next morning to make a complaint about what had happened so it took a little while for us to find out. He was in an interview and towards the end he mentioned it rather casually to the producer who was interviewing him."

Neither did a single cast member choose to stop the clearly unwanted altercation. Says Colicchio, "Any one of them could have spoken up and said, 'This isn't cool, guys. Knock it off.' But they didn't, so as far as I was concerned they were all to blame and I was ready to send the lot of them home and let Marcel win by default." The producers veto'd this plan.

An embarrassment for all involved

Contestant Cliff Crooks ultimately went home, essentially due to body slamming the sleeping Vigneron. Producers noted that Crooks took the punishment with grace and was nothing but professional beyond that incident. The other chefs involved also have gone on to success (and adulting) since that time.

Colicchio describes the whole scene as, "It was like watching an instructional video in bad group dynamics — four apparently decent individuals (three if you buy Elia's argument that she was clueless), fueled by alcohol and subconscious anger, became one collective disaster gleefully terrorizing the designated odd-man-out."

Producer Minoprio describes the embarrassment of it all, especially having to air the details in front of respected chef Eric Ripert (pictured above). "We were so proud to have him on the show and he had been impressed by the meal in Santa Barbara. It was all going so well, dignified and all about great food. Then all of a sudden we were at judges table with one chef missing and two chefs missing their hair," said Minoprio. "It was like we had been hit by a crazy-bomb." While we love "Top Chef," let's hope this incident stays a unique, and unrepeated, learning experience for all involved.

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