The Hardest Top Chef Challenges, According To One Contestant

The life of a restaurant chef is notoriously exhausting. It’s a full shift of adrenaline, generally resulting in the back-of-house staff being pretty hardcore individuals. So you’d think that competing on a reality show like Top Chef would be a, pardon my pun, cakewalk. Two-time contestant Dale Talde recently opened up about just how grueling the Bravo show’s challenges are:

The ones I remember were the hard ones, the 24-hour ones. We were the first season that ever had to do two 24-hour challenges. We had both a Restaurant Wars episode, where we create a restaurant from scratch, and one where we had to cater a wedding. I don’t think anyone had to do anything like that in the seasons before. Those sucked. Just the sheer physical drain of doing them. Far more than the cooking, the hard part with those was just actually doing them.

Not gonna lie, that sounds pretty intense. 24 hours straight? Tom, Gail and Emeril are running quite the tough ship over there at Bravo. Like I said, chefs are used to being on their feet and working under constant stress for hours at a time, but to have them basically in the weeds for a full day is no joke, particularly during the annual Restaurant Wars episode.

For those of you who don’t know, Restaurant Wars is a challenge that is regarded as the most difficult episode of each Top Chef season. In this episode, the Chefs are tasked with essentially creating an entire restaurant concept from scratch. So, rather than just the food itself, they are judged on how exciting the potential restaurant is, the attentiveness of the wait staff, and even the decor of the pop-up they’re creating.

These long and stressful days are no doubt what made Dale Talde so irritable during his time on Top Chef Season 4, as well as his return in Top Chef: All Stars. Talde finished in 6th place for both of his seasons, and has since gone on to a very successful culinary career, although much of his notoriety was for his poor attitude and confrontational personality - particularly his moment screaming at fellow contestant Lisa.

While Dale Talde hardly showed his best side while on TV, in the interview with AV Club he seems to at least be aware of the impression he made on America. Furthermore, he doesn’t blame bad editing for his portrayal, as so many reality TV villains do. Instead, he takes responsibility for his mistakes, and seems self-aware enough to know that he didn’t like seeing the person he was during his time on Top Chef.

Culinary Reality TV shows don’t seem to be leaving the airways anytime soon. In addition to competition shows, there are also shows like Bar Rescue that go in and attempt to save a failing establishment. Additionally, less-intense cooking shows like The Great British Bake Off have recently hopped across the pond and will be airing during primetime television.

Let’s just hope these shows start to cut their hours a bit to allow their contestants some much-earned rest. Wishful thinking, I know.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.