Brian Malarkey Reveals What Contestants Really Eat On Top Chef - Exclusive

It is a truth universally acknowledged (or something to that extent) that you don't sign up for cooking competitions to eat well. Daniel Shemtob, two-time winner of "The Great Food Truck Race," groaned to Mashed that he dined on Starbucks breakfast sandwiches every morning, would work for 12 hours straight, and then only after, dine. "Which, what's open at midnight? And that's not good for your system," he lamented. At least on "Hell's Kitchen," according to what executive producer Arthur Smith told Delish, contestants have dormitory kitchens to cook in when they get hungry. But, as Delish points out, not many contestants are eager to cook four-course meals after spending 19 hours a day — no, that's not a typo — on set. Junk food is the norm.

As for "Top Chef"? Tom Colicchio told Mashed he still dreams about contestant Paul Qui's chilled sunchoke dashi soup with vegetables. But Qui's fellow contestants (this was the Texas season) probably didn't get to sample it. Two-time contestant Brian Malarkey exclusively confirmed to Mashed that contestants aren't eating each other's inspired dishes. "You get a little bite here and there," Malarkey told Mashed. But for the most part, "we can't eat each other's food, because they don't want us touching each other's food. Right?"

Brian Malarkey's 'Top Chef' diet might surprise you

The descriptor, "intense," doesn't do justice to a contestant's "Top Chef" experience. Brian Malarkey compares it to a marathon, something he runs once every seven years. "Because I figure it takes me about seven years to forget how awful the last one was. Same thing with 'Top Chef.'" First, there are the rules."They take away your wallet, your cell phone. You don't get to read books, magazines," Malarkey explained. TV and radio are out, too. "It's just silence ... If the cameras aren't rolling, you can't talk to other people ... if anything happens, if I say, "I don't like you," and they didn't get it on camera, it didn't happen." 

Then, there's the food. If you aspire to be on "Top Chef" one day, don't do what Malarkey did on Season 3. During his first rodeo, Malarkey revealed, "You didn't really understand the repercussions of the cameras ... And you're like, 'Oh, it's two o'clock at night, and we're about to be judged. I'll drink three glasses of wine.' You're like, 'Oh no.'" Season 17, on the other hand, was a whole 'nother ball game. "This [was] serious business," Malarkey said. Take-out food from local restaurants was the norm, the "Top Chef" alum revealed. And, a bigger production budget than on his previous season meant "we did get some good sushi and good Indian food and stuff." Contestants on the "All-Stars" season, however, were careful to tailor their nutritional intake to "be as healthy and focused and ready to roll at any time." That meant "a lot of nuts and seeds and bananas." As Malarkey explained, "you can't let the food dictate your mood and your energy levels."

Brian Malarkey will give you a whole lot more than nuts, seeds, and bananas through the recipes on his webpage. Also, be sure to check out Chefs Life, the celebrity chef's new line of oils.