Courtesy of NBCUniversal

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how "Top Chef" gets cast. 

Elisabeth Sherman
May 14, 2018

At a 2018 Food Bowl panel at the Paley Center on Friday night, former Top Chef contestants spilled some of the show's best-kept secrets, including the fact that any prospective competitors must undergo a psychological evaluation before they can officially join the cast.

Michael Voltaggio, Brooke Williamson, Bruce Kalman, and Marcel Vigneron were joined by one of the show’s producers, Dan Cutforth, on the panel. Cutforth, who has been with the show more than ten years, revealed that this testing process is actually part of the reason Vigneron ended up on the show in the first place.

Here's a little off-screen Top Chef history that should intrigue fans: During season two of the show, Cutforth didn’t want to cast Vigneron, who apparently looked too much like another prospective contestant. But when it came time to evaluate each chef to find out if they’re mentally fit to compete, one chef didn’t pass the test. Cutforth decided to bring Vigneron on to replace the ousted chef—who became the season two runner-up.

“They stick you in a room with a psychiatrist for two hours,” Williamson said, according to a report by the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s awful. I cried because that’s what I do, and I failed my first test.” (Williams ended up winning season 14 of the show).

Given that Top Chef is just one among many popular cooking competitions on the air at the moment, Cutforth also took the opportunity to poke fun at Gordon Ramsay’s reality show, Hell’s Kitchen, which he thinks isn’t as serious as Top Chef.

“Our friends make that show and they consider it a comedy show,” Cutforth commented. “Seriously, I’ve heard them say it.” Hopefully, especially if he's friends with the Hell's Kitchen crew, his words were all in good fun.

Here’s one more behind-the-scenes detail from the show viewers might not know: The chefs always make one extra plate of food, which is only intended to be filmed and photographed, not eaten. According to Voltaggio, the chefs, who are already under a time crunch, “don’t worry about making it taste good.”

To find out more about what the chefs talked about at the panel, head over to the Hollywood Reporter.