Buddha Lo Reveals The Moment He Knew He Was Winning Season 19 Of Top Chef - Exclusive

There's a lot that the cameras don't show you on "Top Chef," and there's a lot of editing and that transforms the raw footage into the dramatic show you see on TV. You might be tempted to say that "Top Chef" is fake, but that's not really true. It's more that some narratives get twisted and certain aspects of real events get heightened in order to make a compelling TV show. The judges actually eat every dish, the challenges are real, and the best chef is really the one who gets crowned the winner.

In Season 19, the best chef was Buddha Lo. He wowed the judges with his technical gifts in the kitchen and was able to cook consistently great, inventive food throughout the season. His competitors in the finale were incredibly talented as well, but Buddha's final menu ultimately earned him the $250,000 grand prize.

When we watched the finale, we weren't sure who was going to win until Padma Lakshmi announced Buddha's name. Since we only got to see an edited version of the judges' remarks, we wondered when Buddha realized he was the victor. In an exclusive interview, he told us the moment he knew he won.

When did Buddha Lo realize he was 'Top Chef' Champion?

Viewers of the "Top Chef" Season 19 finale got to see less than 10% of the judges' discussion of the chefs' final meals. According to Lo, "That talk actually went for like an hour and 20 minutes. Viewers saw a five-minute snippet."

The chef says that he and his two competitors were keeping mental score in their heads while the judges talked. The contestants used a simple point system to get a rough idea of who was leading. If the judges talked favorably about a dish, it earned one point. A dish with a substantial amount of negative feedback earned zero points.

Apparently, after all three of the contestants' meals had been served and the judges had finished giving the chefs feedback, it was clear that Buddha would emerge victorious. Per Lo, "I ended up having four dishes that they liked, so that was four points for me." His closest competitor, Evelyn, only had three, as the judges weren't fans of her goat curry mole.

The outcome was so obvious to all the contestants that Buddha's competitors congratulated him before he was officially declared the winner. As he tells it, "We all went back to the fire as [the judges] did their deliberation and Sarah and Evelyn go, "Well, congratulations."

"Top Chef" Season 19 is now available to watch on Peacock, and you can keep up with Buddha Lo on Instagram.