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Top Chef: Former Contestant Says Show Ruined His Life

Recently, we brought you a story from a Biggest Loser contestant who spoke out about the mistreatment she felt on the set of the reality show. This week, a Top Chef: Just Desserts competitor has arisen from the fray to explain his experiences on the first season of Bravo’s hit show. In short, he says it was a disaster that ruined his life, put him in the psych ward, put another woman in the hospital and made him unemployable.

Early on in the filming of the series, contestant Seth Caro says he and his fellow contestants were riding around on a bus, when an overpass caused problems for a cameraperson and the camera struck a female cast member in the face.

“She had 26 stitches, from her forehead to her nose,” Caro says. “She was in shock, afraid of disfigurement, but they wouldn’t let her call her family. She was given an ultimatum: She could either compete on the show or leave, but she would have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and never sue — and she had to decide now.”

He’s talking about Heather Chittum--now Chittum-Roth--a contestant who appeared in the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts who was eliminated during round 3 of the competition, but competed, despite having to deal with a head injury. Caro also went on to explain that contestants were treated improperly, having to deal with the whims of the production crew. He tells the NY Post the lack of sleep and the quiet on the set during breaks in filming got to him, calling it “cruel.”

“The first few days in, I’m thinking, ‘Is this fun, or is this a cruel experiment?’”

It sounds like a nightmare, but no one ever said appearing on a reality competition series was easy. In fact, Caro’s story needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The contestant actually left Top Chef: Just Desserts after having more than one crazy emotional moment on the show. The following is not the first or last time he had a meltdown on the program, and honestly, it looks those around him did what they could to help the young man while he dealt with the rigors of the competition.

Following leaving the series, Caro spent three days as an involuntary inpatient in a mental hospital. He also says he has had trouble finding a culinary position ever since. As for the woman who was hit on the head? She actually returned to the competition after Seth left the show, appearing on two more episodes before being eliminated a second time on the series.

So, while the majority of former contestants seem to be very supporting of Bravo’s Top Chef shows and credit them with post-appearance career growth, it's clear reality competition shows can be a very stressful environment. Some people don't enjoy their experiences nearly as well. In fact, Caro truly seems to believe the experience ruined his life, but then again, life is rarely that simple. So, exactly how much of a role the show really played in his personal life problems is impossible to discern.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.