We can debate all we want about how this “Top Chef” All-Stars season with returning players has panned out, but enough about Brian Malarkey and his odd desire to buy extra ingredients he doesn’t use, Stephanie Cmar‘s lack of confidence, Lee Anne Wong‘s potty mouth and how Kevin Gillespie‘s stubborn need to make 12 dishes during Restaurant Wars, which was a disaster.
Let’s talk about the real stars of Bravo’s long-running, Emmy-winning reality cooking show that has been around since 2005. Their names? Head judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio, former model and Indian-born cookbook author Padma Lakshmi and Canadian food writer Gail Simmons. All three know their way around a kitchen and possess finely honed taste buds. But their approaches to their critiques and the way they comport themselves on the show are quite different.
— Jersey boy Tom, a guy’s guy who is of Italian descent on both sides of his family, can be blunt and no-nonsense in his criticism, but also effusive in his praise. There is a salt-of-the-earthiness about him and he can handle all the food puns that the writers on the show throw at him, especially in “Last Chance Kitchen.” Tom usually is the one looking over the shoulders of chefs as they race around the kitchen while asking them questions about what they are making. The one thing he lacks when he thinks someone is on the wrong track is a poker face. You can tell from his facial expressions exactly what he thinks of the concoction that is overflowing on a stove or is roasting to a crisp in the oven. That he got his own after-show this season — “What Would Tom Do?” — kind of shows who is the boss.
— Padma, on the other hand, glams up the proceedings quite nicely with her fabulous fashion sense and beautiful smile. She seems to relish food puns in her scripts even more than Tom does as the statuesque host announces what each challenge involves. She can be warm and friendly when the chefs give her delicious food that is properly prepared. But she too spares no feelings when dishes don’t tickle her palate — remember Stephanie’s Indian taco debacle? That is probably why she always gets to tell the eliminated player on each episode, “Please pack your knives and go.”
— As for Gail, she mainly shows up during an episode in some girl-next-door floral frock just in time to brighten your dinner table. She has a common sense approach to food but doesn’t pull punches about when meals are sub-par. There is nothing better, however, than getting a dazzling smile from this upbeat foodie when she loves a dish. I also like it when Gail and Padma pair up like best buds and taste offerings in tandem in alfresco settings.
So it’s your turn to tell us who is your favorite “Top Chef” judge and why. Take the poll below and share your thoughts about all three of these connoisseurs of cuisines.
Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they’re faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You’ll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.