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Series / Top Chef

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Please pack your knives and go.

Top Chef is an Emmy Award winning American reality show that debuted on Bravo in 2006. The premise is simple. Each season's "cheftestants" compete in various culinary challenges to determine who is crowned the titular Top Chef. The prizes also include a feature in Food & Wine magazine, plus a hefty cash prize (originally $100K, now $125K) and a set of state-of-the-art kitchen equipment provided by the sponsors. Each week, the cheftestants participate in a Quick Fire challenge and an Elimination round. The Quick Fire is usually, as its title implies a shorter challenge. The winner normally receives immunity from elimination, though when the cheftestants are narrowed down, this perk vanishes. Elimination rounds result in one or sometimes more chefs being eliminated.

The show is hosted by Padma Lakshmi and features chef Tom Colicchio (Craft, Craftsteak, Wichcraft, etc.) as its head judge. Most seasons have also featured Gail Simmons as a regular judge, with Ted Allen, Toby Young, Anthony Bourdain, Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson, Wolfgang Puck and Eric Ripert also each judging regularly in some seasons, and various other famous chefs and critics coming in as guest judges.


It has three spinoffs: Top Chef: Masters (with award-winning chefs playing for charity), Top Chef: Just Desserts (with pastry chefs), and Top Chef Canada (with Canadian chefs; it aired on the Food Network in Canada). A fourth spinoff, Top Chef Junior (with teenage chefs), was announced in 2010 but didn't take off until May 2017, when it was announced that it would be the first original program on the upcoming children's network, Universal Kids.



This show provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: The judges often seem to try to describe dishes they don't like in the meanest way possible (i.e., "This tastes like cat food." or "It looks like you chopped your meat and/or vegetables with an ax.") The critics of Top Chef Masters seem far less abrasive overall.
  • Arc Words:
    • "I am not a pastry chef." Epic Failure generally follows.
    • "It is what it is" could be translated as "I/we really screwed up that challenge".
    • "It's anybody's game right now" seems to be the franchise's motto.
  • Ascended Extra: Anthony Bourdain was a guest judge on four seasons before becoming a regular judge in Season 8.
  • Audible Sharpness: The sound of a knife being drawn accompanies every elimination.
  • Back for the Finale: The finale challenges often feature the return of the most recently eliminated chefs to assist as sous chefs.
    • Season 8, All-Stars, brought back all the previously eliminated contestants, with the finalists' sous chefs being decided by blind taste-testing.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Several twists in challenges are revealed like this.
    • In Season 1, the chefs were to create a seven-course dinner, and they were able to decide the order quickly and the dish they would make. Then on the day they're about to cook, Tom comes in with a knife block and declares the chefs will be cooking each other's dishes instead of their own.
    • The improv challenge in Season 4 began with the chefs being told they're attending a performance of The Second City, a comedy troupe. During the performance, the actors obtain prompts from the audience and reveal that they are word combinations the chefs will prepare dishes from. They later learned that they could not use electrical appliances in the kitchen, and at the last minute they were informed they would be serving the dishes at their residence instead of the Top Chef kitchen.
    • The Thanksgiving Quickfire in Season 5 was interrupted a minute into the challenge when the chefs needed to convert their dishes into soup form.
  • Bald of Awesome: Tom Colicchio, of course.
  • Black and Nerdy: Carla Hall. Doesn't change the fact she's currently one of the fiercest competitors in All Stars. She's won 3 challenges; tied for most with Richard and Dale.
  • Breather Level:invoked In season 12, the final four chefs got a challenge with no eliminations—they prepared dishes with the assistance of their family members, and the winner of the challenge got a spot in the finals.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In episode 3 of season 4, Andrew makes a remark that if he were eliminated, he would have to be dragged out kicking and screaming by security. Several episodes later, Andrew is eliminated, and bows out gracefully, stating that bringing in security won't be necessary.
    • The reunion special for season 5 has Stefan remark early on that he was glad he didn't win the title of Top Chef. Towards the end of the episode, after Fabio is named fan-favorite, Toby asks Stefan if he was glad he didn't win fan-favorite.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Carla comes off as a funny, loveable spaz - but she is classically trained in French cuisine, made it to the finale in season 5 and won the penultimate challenge, and has now won 3 elimination challenges in All-Stars.
  • Celebrity Edition: Top Chef: Masters.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Angelo comes off as this in season 7. Apparently when he was growing up, he had an altar to great 4-star chefs that he wanted to be like, and he would pray at it every day.
    • Carla most definitely. However, most people tend to underestimate her cooking prowess because of it.
      • Many agree this is one of the various reasons why she is one of the most beloved contestants in the show's history.
    • Andrew from season 4 fits this to a tee.
    • Bev from season 9 very much qualifies. "Oh, look! Flambé!"
  • Compassionate Critic: Guest judge Anthony Bourdain qualifies. He is brutally honest and negative, which provides for some interesting commentary.
    • Additionally, Anthony Bourdain also provides some of the most memorable lines whenever he appears.
    Bourdain: It's like Charles Manson and Betty Crocker had a love child...and he's cooking for me!
    Bourdain: Astro boy has balls.
  • Confession Cam
  • Conflict Ball: Seemingly hangs over the chefs of Top Chef: Just Desserts. Literally every single episode has had some sort of argument break out between two or more chefs, with accusations of backstabbing or sabotage occasionally thrown in for good measure.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Three times in episode 12 of All-Stars:
    • At the beginning of the episode Antonia is asked for info about the upcoming Quickfire, to which she makes an offhand comment about Padma showing up in the chefs' apartment. Take a guess who walks through the door moments later.
    • Immediately following the Elimination challenge, Antonia's mother makes a comment to her that she's hoping all five chefs will go on to the finale. In the end, all of them do end up going on.
    • If Mike and/or Antonia had not made it to that episode, they would never have known they were related.
    • In the second episode of Season 9 the chiefs are told to pick a dish, but not look under the bowl that went along with the dish. Tom asked the chiefs if they were happy with the dish they picked. One contestant answered, "Depends on the amount of time we get." Lifting up the bowl with their dish revealed a separate timer for each dish.
  • Cooking Duel: The point of the show.
    • There's also the literal "head-to-head" in some challenges, where chefs are put in pairs to cook dishes with a common element. Both dishes are served to the judges at the same time, and the winner is decided on the spot. Winners of their duels are eligible for winning the overall challenge, while the losing chefs are eligible for elimination.
  • Curtain Call: The post-season reunion specials.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: The show itself, which ended The Amazing Race's seven year run when it won the Emmy for Best Reality-Competition Program in 2010. It was the first show to have beaten The Amazing Race.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Top Chef's first season is a definite example. Katie Lee Joel was host, the starting cast was only 12 chefs, and at Judges' Table, the chefs actually took seats across the judges for deliberation! Tiffani and Stephen, when they competed in the All-Stars season, especially commented about how different their experiences were when the show was starting out.
    • The first two seasons of Top Chef Masters followed more a of a tournament-style competition. Season 3 follows much more closely to the usual format of the other shows.
  • Elimination Catch Phrase:
    • "Please pack your knives and go." In season 6, Tom Colicchio had to perform an elimination for a Quickfire, and he purposely avoided using the usual phrase, instead saying "Please pack your knives and leave".
    • The spinoffs have variations on the phrase: "Please return to the kitchen and pack your knives." for Masters, and "Please pack your tools and go." for Just Desserts.
      • Many have stated that, in Just Desserts, they prefer Gail's occasional phrase of "Your dessert just didn't measure up".
  • Elimination Statement
  • Epic Fail:
    • One of the 29 initial contestants for Season 9, Tyler Stone, was eliminated without cooking a single dish. How? The challenge his group had was to cook a cut of pig. Tyler did such a bad job butchering not only his cut, but the cut of pork one of the other contestants had assigned (due to being closely attached to his cut), the judges eliminated him immediately.
    • Season 17's Restaurant Wars was such a disaster that it resulted in one of the fasted eliminations in Top Chef history - Kevin's main entree was served with eight side dishes, which the four chefs obviously couldn't keep up with resulting in an absolute mess out front. Tom straight up asked at Judges Table "Why shouldn't we send you home?", and upon Kevin taking full responsibility and offering no excuses, they eliminated him on the spot.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone
  • Felony Misdemeanor: During the Season 6 episode in which the cheftestants had to cook for a soon-to-be bride and groom, Ashley's constant whining about how, as a lesbian, she was incensed that she had to cook for a straight couple that was about to be married fell into this trope.
  • From Bad to Worse: Zoi's elimination in Season 4. Because she was part of a three-man team with Spike and Antonia for that challenge, and Antonia had immunity, the reasons for their team being the weakest were very narrowly pointed out. After her Elimination Statement and showing her leave the kitchen, an argument breaks out between Spike and Antonia, with Jennifer (Zoi's girlfriend) also getting irate. Then by extension, Dale lets out several Cluster F-Bombs at Lisa (the challenge winner whom Dale felt didn't deserve the win), and Jennifer ends up hurling a chair to the ground that breaks. This incident was listed as the number one fight for their season.
  • Funny Foreigner: Fabio Viviani, the season 5 fan favorite. Nearly every one of his talking head interviews is him saying something weird and over-the-top in his thick Italian accent. He's got some zingers, too.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?: The show features at least one openly homosexual contestant in almost every season. Many of them make sure everybody knows their orientation as soon as possible. Ash in Season 6 states that he's the only chef "with a boyfriend," and then pauses for a second before elaborating, "a same-sex boyfriend." All this during his first talking head moment in the first episode of that season.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • A non-lethal variety invoked twice and averted a third time. In Season 2, both Otto and Mia voluntarily withdrew from the competition prior to announcement of the result to save those they thought were undeserving of elimination, which the judges allowed. The very next season, Howie attempts to do the same, but by then the judges had decided the cheftestants could no longer have the power to affect the results and put a stop to it; they told Howie he could quit if he wanted to, but whoever was slated for the chopping block would get eliminated anyway. Turns out it was Howie.
    • Arguably anybody who volunteers to become a team leader in Restaurant Wars. The "head chef" always takes the fall for the losing team. This is even pointed out in later seasons by the cheftestants themselves during the confessionals.
    • Jamie in Season 14 put immunity on the table because felt that his dish was the reason his team ended up on the chopping block He promptly gets eliminated
  • History Repeats: Literally, for the premiere episode of All-Stars titled "History Never Repeats". The chefs' first elimination challenge was to successfully recreate the dish that originally got them eliminated.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Cliff from Season 2. He, Ilan, Sam, and Elia got the bright idea to shave Marcel's head... without his consent. Then, after failing, to shave their own heads. Cliff was the only one to physically touch Marcel, so he was ejected from the competition. Without his dish in the mix, the judges couldn't determine who to send home, so both Elia and Marcel advanced to Hawaii. By trying to embarrass and demean the universally-despised Marcel, not only did Cliff get himself kicked out, he also ensured his object of loathing made it to the finale and went head-to-head with Ilan for the title.
    • The two times that Spike wins the Quickfire Challenge in Season 4, he ends up on the bottom for the Elimination Challenge. His unique advantage for both challenges is first pick of ingredients that the other contestants can't use. For the first challenge—a healthy boxed lunch—Spike chooses bread, chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes just to make it difficult for everyone, but his own dish doesn't wow the judges, and Tom even asks if he chose his ingredients just to hinder his competitors. For the second challenge, Spike picks frozen scallops to serve during restaurant dinner service, and it ultimately gets him eliminated.
    • Nearly everyone who chooses to do a dessert in a challenge where you don’t have to do a dessert, they have a tendency to be disasters that send the chef home.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: This line has been used by many throughout the show's history, most notably Tiffani (season 1), Marcel (season 2), Lisa (season 4), and Robin (season 6).
    • Though, you could tell that Marcel said that after the head-shaving incident.
    • Notably, in season 4, Nimma said it on the first episode. She got kicked off on...the first episode.
    • Also notably, when Tiffany came back for Allstars, she commented that she had realized how much of a mistake it was to have acted like that in the first season, and proceeded to not only "make friends" but also turned out to be one of the nicer and more friendly cheftestants in a season filled with lots and lots of nice people.
  • Implausible Deniability: During one of the challenges in Top Chef DC, Ed had made a pea puree the day before a challenge. On the day of the challenge, the puree had suddenly vanished. Another chef, Alex, coincidentally had a pea puree for his dish, even though no one actually saw him prepare it the day before. After the challenge, Alex denies any supposed wrongdoing, claiming the situation was merely coincidence and that he didn't even know Ed made a puree. Of course, the very next cut is to a discussion the day before, where Alex is told about Ed's puree.
    • Tom has since stated Alex did create a puree, and the chaos was mostly Manipulative Editing, but during the initial airing, the viewers had no way to know that.
  • Impossible Task: As part of the 100th episode, head judge Tom Colicchio was timed to see how long it would take for him to make a dish from start-to-finish under typical Quickfire conditions. He finished in 8 minutes and 37 seconds; the contestants were then required to make their dishes in that same amount of time.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Fabio in Season 5 insisting his cheesesteak was a "Filet Mignon Sandwich."
    • Fabio again in Season 8 when he vehemently insists that Antonia's winning steamed mussels from "An Offer They Can't Refuse" is a French dish instead of an Italian one, and thereby it shouldn't have won because it didn't meet the parameters. Steamed mussels are part of Sicilian (read: Italian) cuisine, and the challenge wasn't about making Italian food... it was about making Italian-American food, which Antonia did. Fabio's fundamental flaw (and undoing) as a competitor is that he just plain doesn't understand American-influenced food.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: In Season 2 of Just Desserts:
    Katzie: He calls it a mess on a stick. Which drives me bananas, because it's not on a stick. It's a candy bar.
  • Jerkass: As is common to any Reality Show. Stefan from New York is a standout.
    • Eli in season 6 was a snarky little Jerkass troll, but his absolute standout moment of being a Jerkass came after Robin won a Quickfire Challenge in which chefs needed to prepare two dishes, representing their "inner angel and inner devil". Robin was one of few who understood the concept of the challenge (most others just taking an ingredient and cooking it two different ways), and took inspiration from her battle with cancer, in which she had to eat healthy food while ignoring the temptation to just indulge in the less healthy food she liked, namely sweets. She ended up serving a salad and a dessert, and the judges praised the flavors and execution of both dishes, awarding her the win. Cue others displaying sore loser attitude, but Eli taking it one step too far, by saying "That's a pretty good way to win a Quickfire, tell people you have fucking cancer".
      • Although pretty much everyone (except Jen and Kevin) was a complete jerkass about and towards Robin. Another notable example was Mike Isabella making Robin do tasks that wouldn't matter towards the dish and just tossing them out.
    • Also from season 6, both Michaels (Voltaggio and Isabella). Ironically, Michael Voltaggio's nicest moment was his speaking well of Robin in the reunion and genuinely apologizing for his bad behavior towards her, unlike Eli, who followed it up with an incredibly rude excuse for an apology for his comments and behavior towards Robin.
    • Alex has been turning out to be one of these on Top Chef: D.C. especially after what happened with the pea puree incident (See above). His behavior towards the waitstaff in Restaurant Wars is pointed out by a number of the other chefs.
    • Almost everyone who lasted past 10th place in Season 2 were jerkasses.
    • Heather from season 9. She was a bully, especially to Beverly. In one episode, she called Beverly's suggestions "too Asian", and went on a long rant at Judges' Table about her "work ethic" and how she wasn't contributing to the team despite that it was Heather herself who wouldn't really allow her to help.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Top Chef seems to like to show the warmer softer sides of those who are otherwise total tools. Stefan is a prime example. When not being an egomaniac who was either putting down another chef or making crass advances on Jamie, he was being (somewhat) supportive of his teammates and was seen frequently acting as the comforter to the female contestants (his giving Carla a shoulder to cry on stands out).
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Spike in season 4. Every time he won a quickfire challenge in the post immunity part of the game he would use his advantage to try to screw over the other cheftestants. In both episodes this landed him in the bottom for elimination. In Boxed Lunched he picked ingredients to prevent the others from using them and didn't think about making a good dish, and in High Steaks he picked scallops that were frozen and using them got him eliminated.
    • Josie's time mismanagement and incompetence got her team losing Season 10's Restaurant Wars. She put team captain Kristen (who won the most elimination challenges at that point) under the bus, resulting in her elimination. However, Josie wound up eliminated the very next episode for the same reasons. Guess who faced (and beat) her on Last Chance Kitchen?
  • Loads and Loads of Cheftestants: Season 9 introduced twenty-nine cheftestants. Guess they really do do everything bigger in Texas. Immediately subverted, however, when they revealed that 15 of them were going to be eliminated in the first challenge.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Antonia and Mike of All-Stars find out they're distant cousins, and the dynamic between them changes almost immediately afterward.
  • Manipulative Editing: Primarily at Judges' Table, to keep viewers from being able to guess who will win/lose until after the last commercial break. Also used extensively for clips shown prior to commercial breaks and in next episode previews.
  • The Mean Brit: Toby Young in the start of Season 5. He's said he hadn't paid any attention to the show before he was hired, and thought the show was more about picking the chefs apart, when it's supposed to be about constructive criticism and picking the most deserving winner. He toned down the attitude as the season progressed.
  • Motor Mouth: Of the constant talking variant. Some chefs would spend inordinate amounts of time talking about their dishes, usually by simply listing the ingredients in the dish. Examples include Stephen from season 1 and Ryan Scott of season 4. Robin from season 6, however, seemed to talk constantly about whatever was on her mind, much to the annoyance of the other chefs.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Padma wearing a bikini in an episode of All Stars.
  • Muppet Cameo: All-Stars had Telly, Elmo, and Cookie Monsters judge the Quickfire Challenge, with Elmo likening a contestant's cookies to cow pies.
  • My Greatest Second Chance:
    • The Quickfire in Season 5's New Orleans finale allowed one of three previously eliminated chefs to compete in the Elimination Challenge. However, Jeff had to win that challenge to advance to the Final Challenge, and was eliminated again when he wasn't announced as the winner.
    • Top Chef: All-Stars.
    • Three previous contestants (Josie from Season 2, CJ from Season 3, and Stefan from Season 5) returned to compete in Season 10.
    • Last Chance Kitchen, starting in Season 9, a last-chance tournament before an eliminated chef is out of the competition for good. The winner of this tournament rejoins the competition during the finale.
    • George from Season 12 was the very first chef eliminated during the Quickfire Challenge. He rejoins the competition when there are only seven chefs remaining, and makes it just short of the last challenge before the finals.
    • Top Chef Season 14 had an interesting spin on this, half rookie chefs and half veteran chefs.
    • For Top Chef season 15, the four initial competitors in Last Chance Kitchen were from earlier seasons: Lee Anne (Season 1), Marcel (Season 2 and All Stars), Jen Carroll (Season 6 and All Stars), and Kwame (Season 13). Of these four, Lee Ann made it back into the competition, only to be taken out by altitude sickness an episode later.
  • Nice Hat: Sheldon's beanie in Season 10.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination:
    • Cynthia in Season 1 had to leave the competition to be with her ill father. The previously eliminated chef Andrea was brought back into the competition.
    • In Season 2, Cliff was disqualified (ejected) for, quote the show, "Aggressive Physical Content". He along with multiple contestants had planned to shave the head of Marcel, another contestant. Cliff was assigned to hold him down, which he did dutifully, but the others who planned the whole thing backed out of it. Cliff was then ejected for his conduct, and the others were given a strict warning. Based on the judges' comments, however, Cliff would likely have been eliminated anyway.
    • Also from Season 2, Otto withdrew from the competition because of a mix-up involving unpaid ingredients during an elimination challenge. Mia also withdrew when she thought Elia would be eliminated. Howie from Season 3 attempted to withdraw, but the judges said it was not his decision to make, and they eliminated him anyway.
    • Subverted in Season 11 when Nick was given a chance to give up his immunity and resign from the competition after he made 2 poor dishes and was the sole weak link in his group. Nick felt he earned his immunity so he opted to keep it so he can keep competing. This led to Stephanie, who had an excellent dish that was only slightly less excellent than Shirley's dish, being eliminated. Regardless on how you felt about Nick's immunity, it's pretty much agreed that Stephanie being eliminated for making a great dish was pretty crappy.
    • Episode 4 of Top Chef: Just Desserts had two non-gameplay eliminations: first Seth was "evacuated" by the producers when (after several weeks of erratic behavior) he had a panic attack and collapsed during the prep for the Quick Fire challenge. Then Malika quit at Judges Table (while the guest judge was trying to tell her how much she enjoyed her dish!), saying that the stress from the competition was ruining her enjoyment of cooking.
  • Oh, Crap!: Tiffany utters an audible "uh-oh" after tipping off the judges to problems on the line during season 8's Restaurant Wars.
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: The theme for a wedding challenge in season 5.
  • Once a Season: Restaurant Wars.
  • One-Note Cook: Several chefs throughout the seasons were notorious for rarely cooking anything besides a particular food:
    • Marcel from season 2 was regularly accused of using foams with every dish he made, although he only made five foams, one of which was milk foam on coffee, which isn't really a molecular gastronomy foam. He also didn't use any foams until episode six.
    • Howie from season 3 rarely made anything that didn't involve pork in some way.
    • Also from season 3, Brian was known as "the seafood guy" and on at least one Quickfire realized he needed to show some diversity, so he cooked with Spam.
    • Nikki from season 4 made pasta so often it got to the point even she was getting tired of constantly making it. When she was recruited to help in Restaurant Wars, it was so she could make pasta.
    • Jamie from season 5, the so-called "top scallop".
    • Ilan (the winner of Season 2) always did Spanish food, and Fabio mostly stuck to Italian food (Italy being his native homeland) in Seasons 5 and 8. His misunderstanding of other cuisines (New Orleans and American comfort foods, respectively) got him the boot both times he was eliminated.
    • Hung (winner of Season 3) was stuck on the sous-vide technique. When Casey tried calling him out for this, he immediately pointed out that she likewise braised most of her dishes.
    • Richard Blais, runner-up in season 4 and Top Chef in Season 8, rarely did anything without liquid nitrogen during Season 8. He even tried to make a damn cookie with liquid nitrogen (and was called out for not actually making a cookie by the Cookie Monster himself). Also, in season 4, he cooked "Banana Scallops" three times.
    • Connie in Season 1 of Top Chef: Canada made sausage in just about every challenge, to the point where the judges told her never to make sausage again. (She did it anyway.)
  • One Steve Limit:
    • Averted with the two Heathers in Just Desserts. They can be told apart however due to one of them is Asian and the other has a large bandage on her face.
    • Season 3 had Sara Mair and Sara Nguyen.
    • Averted in Season 6 between Michael Voltaggio and Mike Isabella. There was also Jennifer Carroll and Jennifer "Jen" Zavala, but the latter was eliminated in the first episode.
    • All Stars had Dale Levitski and Dale Talde (the latter who was often referred to as Angry Dale by fans), as well as Tiffani Faison and Tiffany Derry.
    • Season 9 has two Chrises, Chris C and Chris J. Other contestants often referred to Chris C as Malibu Chris or Malibu, as he resides in Los Angeles and is the prettier of the Chrises. He was eliminated in episode 7 leaving Chris J as the lone Chris.
    • Season 15 has two Joes, Joe Sasto, and Joseph Flamm.
    • Season 17 had Brian Voltaggio and Brian Malarkey, resulting in Malarkey largely going by his last name.
  • Precision F-Strike: Normally, the judges don't indulge in any cursing compared to the cheftestants. However, when she guest judged season two, episode three of Top Chef Canada, season one host Thea Andrews had every right to shout an F-bomb when one of the cheftestants nearly ran over her pregnant body in his rush to get ingredients during the start of a Quickfire Challenge.
  • Promotional Consideration: They say where the prize money comes from and who supplies the normal appliances the chefs use. Got embarrassing during the years General Electric (the longtime owner of Bravo and NBC, no less!) was the appliance sponsor because the fridges often failed and the ice cream machines never worked.
  • Reality Show Genre Blindness:
    • Every single season finale until season 8 has included a twist. And every single time, the chefs are legitimately surprised by it. Come on people! Pay attention!
    • Subverted in Season 6 when the finalists seemed to know that a twist was coming at every corner. Team Mission in Restaurant Wars was genre savvy enough to know not to try a desert, though it didn't help them. According to Jen C.'s later interviews, Eli was the master of Genre Savvy.
    • Jamie averted this during her season's Restaurant Wars. Knowing that whomever's made executive chef for that challenge has basically a 50/50 shot of being eliminated, she intentionally lost the challenge that would decide who got to be executive chef of each team.
    • It seems that some contestants, even by Season 7, haven't figured out that they are going to be cooking right off the back in a Quickfire. According to a blog by Tom Colicchio a number of the new contestants didn't bring in sharpened knives, even when the previous season had begun with a mis en place relay.
    • Every year, some chefs come to the contest without having even a single dessert that they feel comfortable making. At some point they'll be forced to make a dessert, and the judges don't care that they're "not a pastry chef." Anthony Bourdain memorably quipped to a complaining chef that even his grandmother could make an apple pie, and she wasn't a restaurant chef.
    • Every season, there is at least one chef that decides to use a frozen/pre-cooked ingredient to save time. They get eliminated EVERY time.
      • Well not every time. Season One had a challenge that Harold used frozen chicken wings for in Vegas and didn't get eliminated...though to be fair poker players and not the judges ate that food.
  • Running Gag: A few seasons highlight strange coincidences between the chefs and those who are eliminated.
    • Season 3 had the so-called "Casey curse", in which chefs Casey had become close friends with during competition end up being eliminated soon after.
    • Season 4 earned Antonia the nickname "Black Hammer" after numerous chefs who worked alongside Antonia ended up being eliminated; the hammer has come down again for season 8.
    • Season 5 had an eerie series of eliminations with chefs whose birthdays coincided with when they were eliminated.
  • Schmuck Bait: In season 10, the chefs are sent to Alaska and asked to cook with local salmon for the elimination challenge. Their options include various kinds of prize salmon...and chum (scraps for the dogs). Sheldon takes the bait.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: A themed challenge in season 2.
  • Spin-Off: Top Chef: Just Desserts, Top Chef: Masters, Top Chef Canada, and possibly Top Chef Junior.
  • The Starscream: For some reason, Angelo got this reputation among the other chefs in both seasons 7 and 8. It seems as though it's mostly a misunderstanding of his basic nature - he genuinely tries to help his fellow contestants, but ends up making a bigger mess of things than before.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: From season one, the memorable and quotable, "I'm not your bitch, bitch!"
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Really bad with this.
    • In "Top Chef Season 7", on the second-to-last episode, Bravo stretched the episode. Instead of going from 10-11 pm, they had it run from 10-11:30 pm to increase the suspense of the final elimination. The viewer watches until 11 pm, and that is about where Judge's Table starts. Here's the slip-up: Bravo still has the ads going like the episode was 10-11. So on the commercial break where they are choosing between three contestants to be eliminated, there are the two winning contestants walking through a door on the preview for the finale. Guess who gets eliminated now.
    • "Top Chef Masters Season 2" was to select eight people to compete in the final round. This was the last selection round, and before the elimination they play a quick clip of the eight people in the final round. No point watching the ending anymore.
    • In almost all the seasons, Episode 1 has ended with a "This season on Top Chef!" preview, where you might see Bob saying "I'm cooking at a baseball park!" So until that clip pops up, Bob is completely safe. And if Alice is saying "We have to cook at NASA." Then again, Alice has immunity til the NASA challenge, and the shock of this new challenge will be softened because you knew what it was anyway.
  • Voted Off the Island: By the judges.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Usually the name(s) called first by Padma to visit Judges' Table are the winners of a given challenge, but this trope is invoked several times throughout the seasons. Most notably, the season 6 had Padma call out Kevin's name first, only to tell him flat-out that he was not Top Chef.
    • In episode 9 season 9, Chris C and Chris J were both up for elimination. Padma first said Chris and there was a long pause before she said C during which both Chrises looked quite stressed out.
    • In the first few episodes of All-Stars, both groups of chefs with the highest and lowest scores were called to Judges' Table together. After the chefs with the higher scores were commended and the winner was named, they would be excused to leave, while the lower-scoring group had to watch.
    • Inverted in episode 12 of All-Stars. After declaring Antonia and Mike as safe and securing their spots in the finale, Richard, Carla and Tiffany are left to sweat it out some more as the judges state that they still had to make a decision. Padma calls out Richard's name and starts the Elimination Catchphrase... only to stop and tell him he's going on to the finale. Afterward, Carla and Tiffany are still waiting to hear who will be eliminated. Padma calls out Carla's name, then Tiffany's, and tells them both that they're also moving on to the finale.

Alternative Title(s): Top Chef Canada, Top Chef Just Desserts, Top Chef Masters


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