Padma Lakshmi has seen, smelled, and tasted a lot in her time on Top Chef since joining the show in Season 2. In all that time, she's tasted a few questionable things, but one has stood out above all others as the worst meal she's ever had on the program. The beloved Top Chef host outed former Season 2 contestant Michael Midgley who made a food combination that may sound good on paper, but was awful in practice. At least in her opinion.
The worst? I'll tell you. I'm happy to call him out. Michael Midgley, on my first California season, made this weird canapé with some kind of chocolate bar rolled in coconut with a Cheeto stuck in the middle of it. It was just dumb and not very good.
Midgley's bizarre hors d'œuvre didn't win over Padma Lakshmi then or now, and she made a point to stress that his idea was a dumb one all around. Mixing the savory taste of a Cheeto with coconut and chocolate's sweet notes may hit the mark for the flavor profile of a canapé, but it apparently doesn't make for a very delicious combination. It's impressive that the experience was so bad that it stuck with Lakshmi for over a decade, per her interview with Uproxx.
Luckily for Michael Midgley, he was not the only contestant to use chocolate in a way Padma Lakshmi didn't approve. He wasn't even the only one during Top Chef Season 2. The host had another contestant to put to shame from that season, and it turned out to be none other than the big winner Ilan Hall.
I can call out two people. Ilan Hall, second season, last episode. Instead of Barbara, Eric Ripert as the guest judge. In a Quick Fire, he made this beautiful chocolate ganache with a morsel of liver embedded into the center of it and talk about a terrible idea... It was really entertaining trying to watch him explain his way out of it to Mr. Ripert. I just had to sit back and let it roll.
A Cheeto mixed with chocolate sounds bad, but chocolate-dipped liver sounds like an absolute nightmare to taste. Nevertheless, Ilan Hall managed to escape that horror to become the winner of Season 2, which goes to show even the best Top Chef contestants can rise above mistakes to come out on top. The fact that Ilan Hall delivered one of the worst things Padma Lakshmi ever tasted in the final episode, and still won, proves just how subjective taste is.
The latest season of Top Chef airs on Bravo Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET. Lots of new television will be up and on television at the start of the new year, so keep up with the latest premieres and returns via our midseason premiere guide. For a look at what December still has to offer, visit our fall premiere guide.