And there it was… the kind of Greco-Roman wrestling we haven’t seen since Borat. Having just successfully cooked a ”romantic” dinner for 30 (and after at least one drink too many), Top Chef contestants Elia and Ilan celebrated by shaving their heads. Then the group decided to take it to the next level (and by ”next level” we mean ”attempted felony”), and forcibly scalp their perpetually picked-on competitor Marcel. Cliff, the 28-year-old chef from New Jersey, did the tackling — and in the end, the walking — as head judge Tom Colicchio told him to pack his knives for violating that little-known rule about not assaulting other contestants. Here’s what Chef Tom had to say about The Incident:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We have to talk about last night. What were they thinking?
TOM COLICCHIO: Pretty crazy, huh? I don’t know what they’re thinking. The thing I find amazing is that so many people are thinking that this is impossible, it’s scripted, nobody would act this way. It’s like a frat house: You have a few drinks, someone comes up with an idea, and no one has enough sense to say, ”You know what? That’s crazy. Don’t do it!” It was very disappointing for us. It’s tough, because [all season] they would go back and forth between not cooking very well and cooking well, and they had all cooked very well [in that challenge]. To jeopardize that going to the finals — it’s crazy.
Sam, Ilan, and Cliff have said that Marcel is much more annoying than he’s being portrayed. Do you think his hazing has been warranted?
No, no, no, no, no. No hazing is warranted. None. There’s no way, there’s absolutely no way. If you don’t like the guy, just say, ”We don’t like you,” and don’t talk to him. More annoying than he is on TV? C’mon. These are adults, they aren’t children. Take responsibility for your actions. I don’t buy that.
You mentioned that they have off-weeks. Have you ever been embarrassed by something they served to a guest judge?
When Anthony Bourdain was there, I was totally embarrassed by that. I have no reason to be embarrassed either — it’s not my food — but it was so bad. When he turned around and said, ”What kind of crack house are you running?” — I mean, he’s a funny guy, but he was serious.
What was the worst thing you tasted all season?
Something that Marcel made. It could’ve been a Quickfire challenge. It was clam and, like, hearts of palm and something else. Clams when they’re room temperature and warm, they’re disgusting. And that’s how they were. They were just gross.
It could’ve been the fideos dish that Ilan made last night, the toasted pasta. It was really good, really, really flavorful. That’s what comes to mind.
It seems like when you’re hovering for Quickfires or when they’re prepping elimination challenges, that you’re there to intimidate.
I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re intimidated at all. At that point they’re being judged. They’re busy. They’re focused on what they’re doing. When there were 15 contestants, probably half of them were initimidated. But I don’t think Sam, Ilan, or Cliff is thrown off by some guy walking around.
Of all the contestants, whose restaurant would you invest in?
Oh, that’s a great question! I don’t think any in this group. I don’t think any of them show any kind of leadership skills. It’s not to say that every cook has to — some of them scream, yell, and get away with it. But I don’t see the kind of leadership qualities that I would invest in out of any of these guys right now at this stage of their career — and that can change. When Stephen from the first season saw himself on TV he came back and said, ”Wow, I didn’t know I was that arrogant.” So a lot can change. But as far as investing, I’d have a hard time doing that.