The tenth season premiere of Bravo's "Top Chef" saw the judges scattered across the country whittling down the talent to an elite few. Debonair judge and James Beard award-winning chef Hugh Acheson (or, as I like to call him, "Hugh-nibrow") spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on what he will be looking for from the aspiring chefs this season.
Acheson knows the kind of pressure the competitors are under, having competed himself in the "Top Chef: Masters" series. As such, the chef is well aware of both how tough it is to prepare the elite dishes under duress as well as take sharp criticism. "Hearing criticism for a [Top Chef] contestant I think is never easy. Because you’re firmly believing in what you’ve done," he explains. "And sometimes you’ve made a mistake and it’s abundantly clear that you’ve made a mistake, and you’re just waiting for them to make a mistake, and inevitably they do. Then it’s just that awkward skirting around where you either take that and say, “I know,” or do you try and defend it. But sometimes you’re honestly 100 percent behind the food you’ve made and you want to defend it. I found that was true on Masters, where I was one of the few people wanting to speak their mind at the judges’ table."
As for which is more stressful, competitor or judge, there's no comparison. "In terms of being a contestant, everyone always asks me, 'Is it as hard as it looks?' And it is, and it’s as stressful as it looks -- even more so. But I get jazzed about that kind of stress and it’s exciting. The total different side of it is judging. But judging is fun; it’s also very easy. I just get sat down, fed and asked to be a jackass. And I’m good at that," Acheson jokes.
As for food trends, the chef has had about enough of the upscaling of greasy American classics. "I think I’m over the burger and pizza trend. Those are the big elephants in the room that are taking up way too much of the American time and diet," he says. "I just think that in every midsize city right now there’s suddenly 42 artisan pizza shops and plenty of places making gargantuan burgers."
Be sure to check out the latest episode of Bravo's "Top Chef" on Wednesday (and my review soon thereafter!). Until then, stay the hell away from my pizza, Hugh-nibrow.