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On Top Chef, a 30-minute quickfire took four hours to film

On Top Chef, a 30-minute quickfire took four hours to film
MC Hammer and Padma Lakshmi at Top Chef California's episode 11 quickfire challenge. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Bravo)

The quickfire challenge on last week’s Top Chef California, which took place outside in Jack London Square in Oakland and was guest judged by MC Hammer, lasted 30 minutes. But filming it required four hours and about 70 crew members.

That’s according to a behind-the-scenes story from Inside Bay Area, whose reporter Jackie Burrell was on location and reveals things such as:

  • the outdoor pantry had 180 spices for the chefs to choose from
  • Padma Lakshmi swapped high heels for flip flops between takes
  • Padma has “a cortege of stylists” who are referred to collectively as “The Look”
  • a security guard hired to prevent fans from taking pictures took pictures himself

Most interesting to me is that the on-screen elements are “absolutely authentic” and “the judging is absolutely real,” but:

“Every scene is filmed and refilmed, reset and filmed again, and then redone at least once more to capture voices, a single line at a time. There’s a pause for whistling trains every few minutes (so many trains!) and then another take. And another.”

The paper doesn’t detail what, exactly, is re-filmed beyond Padma’s challenge-ending line, “hands up, utensils down!”, which had to be filmed twice because of a train noise.

The editing of those 30 minutes, unsurprisingly, makes it seem even more crazy: The paper reports that there were “chefs stopping to mull possibilities, discuss what they might do and take a thoughtful several minutes to make their selections,” and then “the chefs begin calmly cooking.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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