Tom Colicchio Just Set The Record Straight About Fair Judging On Top Chef

It's a question many viewers probably wonder about. How fair is the judging on shows like "Top Chef"? When the judges know who is cooking what, and it's not a blind tasting, what is stopping them from favoring some contestants over others? Since competition-style cooking shows have been gracing our television screens since the 1990s – originating with series like "Iron Chef" in Japan and "MasterChef in the U.K. (via Research Gate) – one might expect such issues to be settled. But apparently, they aren't.

The Daily Mail recently reported that the impartiality of judges on "MasterChef" Australia was called into question when they appeared to help one contestant with advice on his seafood dish but sent another contestant home for burning a cake. Judge Melissa Leong said, "As much as we love spending time with them, I think any judge needs to remain impartial in that regard." Yet a viewer complained, "They didn't tell Sarah about the chili and whiskey combination/balance. They didn't help Billie with her overflowing oil pot. They didn't tell Julie to check on her cake. But good god did the judges basically cook Daniel's dish for him."

Some might even go so far as to accuse a show like "Top Chef" of being completely fake. However, in 2018, Padma Lakshmi said only the challenge descriptions are scripted (via Bravo TV). Tom Colicchio explained that this means contestants know the rules even if they claim otherwise. Recently he also addressed the issue of fair judging.

Why the judging isn't done blind

Twitter users @Millward434 and @WingmanJohnny recently tweeted "Top Chef" judge Tom Colicchio suggesting the taste testing should be blind so that the judges didn't know who had cooked which meal. Addressing such concerns, Colicchio replied, "We don't have an opportunity to get to know them, we are not allowed to interact with the contestants off camera nor are we privy to what is happening in reality outside of judging their food."

Not only did Colicchio suggest the judges have little basis for bias, but according to one of his tweets, a past attempt at blind tasting failed to hide the contestants' identities: "We did a blind tasting a few seasons ago I think there were about 12 contestants left, I was able to figure out who cooked what dish based on the style of cooking and plating."

Some people might say that the camera either reveals or hides preferential treatment. "Does Tom Colicchio's obvious favoritism and biases on the show drive anyone else nuts?" asked Redditor @ricebowl0123, who alleged that the judge showed a preference for male chefs. User @wordisbond replied, "I think it's important to remember that we only see a portion of the cooking and judging on the show. That does not rule out biases from any of the judges, but we can't really make any strong conclusions based on the extremely limited knowledge we have."