It might have seemed that the judges who got to enjoy the dishes served during the finale of Bravo’s “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.” had a tough choice to make in picking the ultimate winner. But, apparently, the right choice was fairly obvious. “Yeah, it really wasn’t as difficult as it looked,” admits a smiling Tom Colicchio, the head judge and co-host of the reality cooking show that just wrapped its 17th season with a conclusion in Italy that came down to three finalists — Melissa King, Bryan Voltaggio and Stephanie Cmar — putting their hearts and souls into their four-course meals. But King, who won an unprecedented 10 total challenges this season — on top of being voted Fan Favorite — clearly deserved the crown. Watch our exclusive video interview with Colicchio above.
“Sometimes you have to, you know, make it look like a horse race,” Colicchio says. “But you know what, Melissa just … cooked with a lot of confidence. And I think, coming into Italy, we always say when you can cook using your personality, your experience and tell your stories, it seems to give someone an edge. She was able to take her heritage and her food and using Italian ingredients and some Italian techniques and flavors and just create something that was really special.”
He adds that the experienced European chefs who helped judge the finale “kind of know the show and I think they kind of like they’re coming to play along for this little game and they were blown away and, to me, that’s what was really special about Melissa’s cooking in the finale.”
Colicchio goes on to discuss how cooking every day and getting feedback helped someone like Cmar, who lacked confidence earlier in the season but grew as the show progresses. He also talks about his new after-show “What Would Tom Do?” that allows him to demonstrate what he would have made for a challenge that the contestants just took on. And he laments the elimination of Gregory Gourdet, who suffered back pain while competing in Italy and was eliminated on the white truffle challenge.
Colicchio, a big advocate for the restaurant industry, also addresses how the coronavirus epidemic has caused those who rely on restaurants to make a living, including farmers and wineries, to suffer financial losses and how his group, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, is lobbying Congress to help out financially.