Scandals That Will Sadly Plague Top Chef Forever

Scandals That Will Sadly Plague Top Chef Forever


Bravo’s Top Chef has been on the air for 16
seasons, and over the years it’s definitely seen its fair share of drama. From reported wage theft to alleged assault,
here’s what scandals have the network saying, Please pack your knives, and go. Marcel Vigneron first appeared on Top Chef
season 2. And though it was clear from the beginning
that he was wildly talented, he’s been called the quote, “most-popular but least-liked contestant,”
per the Las Vegas Sun. But things got out of hand one night when
Vigneron and fellow chef’testants Ilan, Cliff, and Elia were left alone in their house on
the final night of filming, with just a handheld camera to record footage. “It was a stupid joke. What’s your ____ problem (punch)” Everyone’s story differs, but what the camera
showed was Cliff pinning Marcel to the ground in an attempt to forcibly shave Vigneron’s
head, while the others watched. Cliff put Vigneron in a full nelson, at which
point Vigneron was able to get away. “I’m like is this for real? Like what the ___ is going on right now.” Judge Tom Colicchio was so enraged by the
incident that he wanted to have all four of the participants in Marcel’s assault to be
sent home, which would have made Vigneron the winner by default. “We’re gonna have to ask you to leave.” Instead, producers intervened, and only Cliff
was sent home the next day. Mike Isabella was a contestant on season 6
of Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars. The Washington, D.C.-area chef found a huge
amount of success after his appearance on the shows, opening 11 restaurants and managing
a staff of nearly 800 people. It seemed he was going to be a major Top Chef
success story — until he wasn’t. “It’s yes chef, no chef, or I don’t know
chef. There’s no other things that you should be
saying in a kitchen besides that.” Isabella’s new empire began to crumble in
2017, when a female manager claimed she was harassed by both Isabella and his business
partners, per The Atlantic. She claimed Isabella’s offences included inappropriate
comments, showing up to work drunk, and goading another chef into trying to sleep with her
— an event that she says led to Isabella firing her. She also said that two of his business partners
sent her illicit text messages, and that the group as a whole called her names, insulted
her, and touched her without permission. The case eventually settled, Isabella filed
for bankruptcy, and in December 2018, Isabella closed all of his Mike Isabella Concept restaurants. John Besh was a famous restaurateur in New
Orleans and head of the John Besh restaurant group when he appeared as a guest judge on
Top Chef Colorado in the 15th season of the show. The James Beard Award-winner had appeared
on several other cooking shows, wrote an award-winning cookbook, and was considered to be one of
the preeminent New Orleans chefs. But in between his Top Chef appearance being
filmed and the episode airing, scandal erupted. “Explosive allegations of sexual harassment
against celebrity chef John Besh and his restaurant group are now making national headlines.” Eater reported that 25 women came forward
with allegations that Besh had created a work environment in which harassment and assault
flourished. Former employee, Maggie Moore, who was fired
by Besh’s business partner, told Fox 8 News that she said at the time, “The reason that we’re here goes back to when
I wouldn’t have sex with John. And that is why I’m being fired right now. And the response that I got was, I’m sorry.” Soon after the news broke, Bravo made a statement
saying that they were evaluating Besh’s episode. Then, days after the series premiere, Bravo
announced that it would edit Besh out of the episode entirely. Chef Graham Elliot may have two Michelin stars
under his belt, but the charismatic cook and TV personality hasn’t always operated his
restaurant above board, according to a group of employees who sued him. “If it’s not broken, break it.” Elliot, who appeared on MasterChef and MasterChef
Jr. for a decade before becoming a judge on Top Chef in 2016, was sued in 2012 by 14 former
servers at his Chicago restaurant, who alleged that they were owed money due to unlawful
tip pooling, adding that Elliot was operating a quote “systemic scheme to deprive them of
regular and overtime compensation,” according to Eater. The employees were seeking back pay plus interest. The case was settled in the fall of 2012 with
Elliot paying an undisclosed sum to his former employees. “Alex the number one question we got for
this reunion: did you really steal Ed’s pea puree.” The infamous “Pea-gate” incident from Top
Chef season 7 isn’t just the most humorously named scandal the show has ever seen, but
also one of the most befuddling. “I’m gonna be absolutely fair and only think
about the food I’m not even gonna think about who’s cookin it.” Here’s what went down. Chef’testant Ed Cotton made a pea puree to
accompany a seafood dish. Then, somewhere between the prep kitchen and
the restaurant kitchen where they’d be preparing their meals for the challenge, Cotton’s puree
went missing. “Alex, did you see that pea puree? I did not.” At the same time, chef Alex Reznik suddenly
had a pea puree that he planned to feature in his dish, even though he had already been
shown on camera wondering what to serve with his salmon. The coincidence seemed almost too convenient,
especially when Cotton was forced to change his dish, and Reznik ended up winning that
week’s challenge. Season 9 winner Paul Qui had a great reputation
at one point. He was one of the most famous chefs in Austin,
Texas after nabbing a James Beard Award and winning Top Chef Texas. But Qui was not immune to scandal. “A popular Austin chef reportedly assaulted
his girlfriend” In 2016, the Washington Post reported Qui
was arrested for assault after his girlfriend alleged that he had gone on a violent, drug-fueled
rampage, during which he pushed her and her infant son and blocked them from escaping
the apartment, knocking over furniture, shelves, and tables, and causing her bodily harm. Qui made a statement saying that he was innocent
of the assault charges, but that he would be checking into rehab following the incident. The charges against Qui were eventually dropped
as the alleged victim stopped cooperating with the investigation, according to Eater. “That was a side of me I’ve never ever ever
seen… that I would have gotten that out of hand.” In the fallout, three of Qui’s restaurants
closed. These days, the chef is still getting work
and opening new businesses, but his successes are rarely noted without mention of this scandal. “It’s something that I own and that I have
to live with. You know, and it’s something that I have to
be responsible for.” When production is deciding where to film
a project, it’s not uncommon for them to seek out local film commissions and state governments
to receive tax benefits in exchange for bringing business to the state in question. But, according to Eater, when Top Chef started
filming in Texas, the production company’s techniques weren’t all above board. “It’s Texas, they made it bigger, this season’s
raising the level of intensity pretty fast.” There were rumors that production approached
several different cities — including Houston, Dallas, and Austin — and were trying to
negotiate a pay-to-play deal where they would shoot in a certain city in exchange for a
cash payout, selecting those cities who were willing to pay the most, rather than relying
on the traditional tax breaks. So, how much money, exactly, did Texas end
up paying the show? Officially, the state claimed it would cost
taxpayers nothing to have the show filmed in Texas, but, according to the Dallas Observer,
Governor Rick Perry’s office signed a statement agreeing to subsidize the show to the tune
of $400,000 in exchange for quote, “the integration of [the state’s] brand in Bravo’s production
of Top Chef cycle 9.” You expect the contestants on Top Chef to
be given some very unique ingredients to work with. After all, these cooks are pros, and if the
judges want to shake things up, they have to think outside of the box. “It’s not easy. And some of it’s nasty.” However, producers on Top Chef Canada may
have taken things a little too far when they had one chef use horse meat in a challenge
that asked contestants to make a traditional French dish. Apparently horse meat isn’t exactly popular
in Canada, according to HuffPost, but in the province of Quebec, you can find it at grocery
stores and butchers. More than 90,000 horses are slaughtered in
Canada each year for consumption. “Oh my God I’m going to vomit,” When news broke that an upcoming episode would
feature a chef cooking with horse meat, the internet erupted in protest. There was even a Facebook group that was joined
by more than 5,000 people. Top Chef Canada stood by their decision to
include horse meat on the show, saying via The Globe and Mail, “The challenge in this episode involves having
the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is
horse meat.” When Top Chef moved to Boston for season 12,
they decided to use a non-union film crew. And according to Inside Edition, there are
two sides to what happened next. “The production company did not hire teamsters
drivers.” “Local union leaders tried to shut the show
down.” Having been passed over for the gig, a group
of four Boston teamsters said that they were on site that day simply picketing the Top
Chef crew to quote “protest against the abuse of the Massachusetts film tax credit” and
the fact that they were operating a non-union set. However, witnesses including Top Chef host
Padma Lakshmi herself said that they became aggressive and violent. “Least he knows I’m not a scab like you.” Lakshmi claims that the men came up to her
in her car and hissed at her, with one saying, quote, “I’ll smash your pretty little face,”
while others alleged that the teamsters yelled profanities, slashed the tires of vehicles
being used by the crew, and were chest bumping crew members in a threatening way as they
arrived to set. The incident was just one of several being
looked at to determine whether Mayor Marty Walsh’s office had inappropriate ties with
organized labor in the city, with one city employee claiming he pulled the permits for
Top Chef in order to pressure them to use members of a local union on their film crew. Judge Tom Colicchio has long been an advocate
for fair labor, an activist in the realm of food insecurity, and is generally considered
to be a “good guy” in the restaurant industry. But even he isn’t immune to scandal. “Whether you’re a chef, whether you’re a porter,
whether you’re a server, you have to have sort of a desire to really care for people.” According to Take Part, in 2015, Colicchio’s
‘wichcraft sandwich chain was sued for allegedly distributing tips unfairly, resulting in workers
getting paid less than minimum wage, as well as not paying employees adequately for working
overtime. Even delivery people for the chain claimed
that they weren’t fairly compensated for the time it took them to change in and out of
their uniform, and they were paid for fewer hours than they reported working. This wasn’t the first time that Colicchio
has come under fire for labor practices. His restaurant Craftbar settled a lawsuit
out of court with employees who alleged that their tips were being garnished and that they
weren’t getting paid minimum wage. Colicchio denied the allegations, though he
did say that the situation should be investigated fairly and that his employees should be taken
seriously, noting that state minimum wage regulations can make paying tipped employees
more complicated than it seems. Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth both competed
on Top Chef, and eventually even opened a restaurant together in New York called Root
& Bone. But unfortunately, scandal shadowed the entire
enterprise. “Working together and how to work together,
and maybe how not to work together…we’ve learned a lot.” The Miami Herald reported McInnis’s ex-wife
claimed that McInnis and Booth had been having an affair, and that he pressured her into
a divorce so that he could move to New York with Booth. She also alleged that McInnis left his previous
job because his business partner wanted to run a family company, and McInnis’s philandering
didn’t fit in. Nevertheless, McInnis and Booth opened Root
& Bone, which debuted with much fanfare and positive reviews. But according to Eater, things soured when
the duo was sued by their business partner, who alleged that they lied about the restaurant’s
profits and embezzled over $280,000 from the restaurant, supposedly using it to renovate
the apartment above the restaurant where they lived, and to hold a pop-up restaurant in
Puerto Rico. The scandal eventually blew over, and McInnis
and Booth got engaged on the set of The Chew in 2018. Both also still work at the successful Root
& Bone. Viewers of Top Chef might be shocked upon
revisiting season 1 when they realize that Katie Lee, not the now-iconic Padma, was the
show’s first host. “Good evening everyone, I’m Katie Lee Joel.” Lee wasn’t exactly praised for her performance
on the show, with viewers calling her robotic and wooden. After a single season, Andy Cohen announced
that Lee was leaving the show to quote “pursue other opportunities.” Later, in his 2012 memoir, Cohen would recount
how Lee would get so nervous on set and feel so guilty about having to send contestants
home that her pounding heartbeat could be heard through her mic. “So go home, enjoy your first night in the
house. For one of you, it will be your last.” Lee was replaced by Lakshmi, who hosted the
next 15 seasons of the show. But Lee didn’t disappear completely. “I’m Katie Lee and I eat meat in sweats.” She’s now a co-host of Food Network’s The
Kitchen, has appeared on Food Network shows like the Halloween Baking Championship, Meat
Sweats, Beat Bobby Flay, and Rachel Ray. She also has her own show on the Cooking Channel
show called Beach Bites with Katie Lee. Lee is also a cookbook author and novelist. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
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  1. Why I no longer watch food shows or Food Network in general , to many fat heads. The best has long been dead Julia Child. She had class.

  2. Strange that almost every case involves a man, guilty until proven innocent. I like how they put that spin on it. Horsemeat isn't that strange, grown ups are working here. These people are so douche.

  3. Working in restaurants are truly the bottom of the barrel in the job industry. Its inhumane working conditions in most of these restaurants and you get treated like a slave and have to work odd hours and you never get weekends off, No thanks 🧐

  4. 2:22 This is what I like to call a "no-win" situation:
    If you make advances on a girl & she says "no" then it's "sexual harassment".
    If she says "yes" then you can look forward to getting divorced raped a few years later.

  5. Tom Collichio and Top Chef have severely diminished as a cooking competition for me. You mean in 16 seasons there is only ONE black top chef? I was really disgusted with this fact during season 11 when they had the talented, Nina Compton, on the show. Nina was crushing it through the entire competition. Tom in the finale pushed for this chef Nicholas to win whose food the judges were complaining about constantly for being under seasoned. In fact that was the complaint during the finale. Plus Nicholas was a total tool in a previous episode where he surprisingly cooked well enough to get immunity and he also behaved poorly in the kitchen during the finale. However, Tom pushed hard for Nicholas and he became Top Chef for season 11. Tom got major push back after that decision. Nina Compton has gone on to win a James Beard award for her cooking. Tom stands at the gate on Top Chef, and keeps anointing the same type of chefs usually white males with a sprinkling of women and Asian chefs. There have been so many black talented chefs who have passed through that competition, who if they make ONE mistake have to pack their knives and go. Yet chefs like Hosea, Jeremy, Nicholas, and others have cooking armor. I barely watch the show anymore. Top Chef should pack its knives and go.

  6. The narrator literally can’t pronounce first names correctly… you would think that would be an easy production point to touch on. This channel is such a joke.

  7. Consuming horse flesh? Or even dog or cat…?

    How is this different from consuming other animals such as cows (and their milk), hens and their eggs, fish and shellfish?

  8. LOL, it really looks like the males are achieving and doing well, opening several restaurants with tons of employees… while the females just scream harassment and screw everything up.

  9. The moral of the story? Don't EVER hire women to work for you. EVER. They are nothing but trouble. If you want your business to run smoothly and efficiently then hire men ONLY and certainly NEVER put a female in a supervisor role.

  10. Scandal makes for good reality tv, which is one reason TC continues to thrive. TC is probably the best American cooking contest, but Great British Bake Off and Masterchef Australia are better.

  11. Marcel Vigneron if that is the white guy I have never liked this SOB since the first time I saw him on Chopped and the other shows like that he's got the ego of Prince without the chops to follow through.

  12. Paul qui is also a Chinese filipino that refused to recognize that he'd also part Filipino. The eyelids don't lie. Double eyelids.

  13. You forgot Padma is a diva and doesn't have any claim to be a judge of food that chefs cook. She's just a damn foody the most. An overpaid host / presenter on a food show.

  14. The Marcel attack to me was an assault. He could have easily filed criminal complaint that he was assaulted and it was filmed. Nobody has no right to touch another person and what that person did to Marcel was considered an assault. It was violent and criminal.

  15. I’ve worked for Jeff and Janine since December as the opening team of Root and Bone Miami. I can say they are both good hearted sincere people. Love working for them.

  16. Little detail, that many people either don't know, don't want to know, or forget is that many chef's as psychopaths.

    https://www.eater.com/2013/1/8/6498375/apparently-the-cooking-profession-is-full-of-psychopaths

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