Getty Images / John Lamparski

Tom, Padma, Gail, and Graham weigh in on their chances.

Adam Campbell-Schmitt
March 07, 2018

It's okay, you can admit it—you've sat there watching Top Chef, rooting for your favorite contestant only to have their seemingly beautiful dish torn apart by the show's judges. "Let's see them try to win a challenge!" you shout at your television. Sure, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Graham Elliot all have culinary pedigrees of their own, but in the heat of the competition, we're all susceptible to getting a little frustrated now and again. While there have been dozens of talented cheftestants over the past 15 seasons, Top Chef takes a certain kind of chef to win it all, so you might be surprised to learn that all four judges are pretty self-aware when it comes to how they'd handle the pressure.

Colicchio told Bravo's The Daily Dish he's sure he'd fare pretty well—if he were 26 years old again, that is. "Nowadays? I wouldn't have the stamina if I had to do it at this age. No way, it's crazy," he admits. "I'd like to think I'd make it pretty far," Simmons says, "but it really all depends on who you're cooking against. I mean, the entire show is based on a bell curve." Elliot, who appeared on Top Chef Masters, says he's in it more for the chance to work elbow-to-elbow with fellow chefs, saying, "I don't think I would come in thinking I'm going to beat everybody," and that he'd "just like hang out in a kitchen and see where it goes." Lakshmi is a little more direct. "I would never ever ever compete on Top Chef." Point taken. See their full responses in the video below:

 

But when it comes to competing against each other, that's a different story. In fact, late last year all four judges convened at Colicchio's Craft restaurant in Manhattan to partner up and go head-to-head in a Quickfire challenge for charity. Filling in the roles of hosts and judges were Marcel Vigneron from season two and season four's Antonia Lofaso and Dale Talde. Tasked with making a mashup dish of each chef's favorite holiday dish, Team Padma and Graham made winter salad—pomegranate, serrano chile, mozzarella, sweet potato two ways, pecans, and a dressing of olive oil, yuzu, and aged balsamic, using chestnut as a garnish like a truffle, while team Tom and Gail made a latke topped with a baccala salad, lemon, parsley, chiles, and a roasted chestnut and garlic foam. Despite the tough competition, Padma and Graham came out on top proving that, between the judges at least, it'd be anyone's game.