By Marc Snetiker
Updated July 19, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Ali Paige Goldstein/AMC, Getty Images (inset)
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AMC’s gritty new restaurant drama Feed the Beast is all guilty pleasure (with only half the calories!), and it’s largely thanks to Harold Dieterle, the winner of the first season of Top Chef.

Since his tenure on the reality show, Dieterle has gone on to open his own series of restaurants, all of which primed him for his big return to television — behind the camera this time. As the main chef consultant on Feed the Beast, Dieterle helps keep the show’s oft outrageous characters (Jim Sturgess plays a coke-addicted chef embedded with the mob; David Schwimmer, an alcoholic sommelier) in grounded check, at least when it comes to the kitchen.

EW got the main ingredients from the man who keeps the show’s cuisine from being overcooked.

Keep time in the kitchen:

Dieterle’s primary responsibility as chef consultant lies in choreographing the delicate dance of dishes and cooks who fly in and out the show’s fictional Bronx-set restaurant, Thirio. “I show them how to hold the spoon properly or pick up the plate properly — small details that make it feel authentic,” says Dieterle. As the former owner of three restaurants, he admits to occasionally forgetting the actors’ amateur status. “In the third episode, one of the actors was slicing a rack of lamb and I’d shown him how to do it a few times, but when we started rolling, he totally destroyed the rack of lamb and I burst into the kitchen just freaking out,” he says, laughing. “I think my intensity is probably one of the reasons why I was a fit for the show.”

Consult with the sous chefs:

The kitchen is all about teamwork, and Dieterle works backward from the cues of food stylist Susan Spungen: “I take her finished dishes and then show the actors how to prepare those elements.” He’ll plan culinary tasks around how much time he has to fill in a scene between stars Sturgess and Schwimmer. The task to find the busywork to fit the bill came as a throwback to the Top Chef contestant. “The crew would say, ‘There’s no way he could do it in two minutes. You couldn’t do that in two minutes,’ and all of a sudden I was being challenged to do something in two minutes again,” says Dieterle.

Stay burn-free:

Nicks and cuts are commonplace, but it was Dieterle’s personal mission to avoid gastronomic catastrophes. He recalls one in particular: “Jim had to do this langoustine flambé scene toward the end of a ridiculously long 15-hour shoot day, and I was very concerned he was going to melt his face off. To be honest, Jim was an animal. Not only was he shooting crazy hours — he didn’t have a day off for, literally, I want to say two months. So we were doing a flambé dish and it was the last shoot, and I just kept thinking, ‘This is a recipe for disaster.’ But we boiled it down and I made sure he kept his face away from the pan when he dropped the brandy in.”

Keep it all simmering:

Dieterle was keen to make sure that the camaraderie of the kitchen stayed in the show — “There’s a lot of ass grabbing and it’s very playful during prep time,” he says — but the friendship extended beyond the set. Although filming has concluded on season 1, Dieterle’s mentorship of his newly-trained bon viveurs didn’t end at the wrap party. “I have an iMessage group chat with all the cooks from the show,” he says. “If they make a dish, they’ll shoot it over and ask for critique, or if they’re out at a nice restaurant and have a great dish, we’ll all share it with each other on the group chat.”

Feed the Beast airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

A version of this story originally appeared in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now, or available to buy here. Subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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Feed the Beast

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