2/22/2013 10:30:00 AM

Behind the Scenes of a Top Chef Casting Call

Before any cheftestant can have the opportunity to gaze pleadingly into Padma Lakshmi’s eyes and be told “pack up your knives and go,” she’s got to make it through auditions.

Dozens of would-be Top Chefs lined up on Wednesday at former cheftestant Dale Talde’s eponymous Park Slope restaurant, vying for a spot on the Bravo show. They each got just a few short minutes to convince producers they had the right mix of talent and personality for the reality competition.

“We’re looking for people that stand out, that pop. But for a show like this, cooking is essential,” casting producer Danielle Carter said. “You can’t just talk your way through it.”

Waiting in one of Talde’s booths for his shot with the casting table, Diego Moya said he thinks he’s got the right combination of skills and personality to get on the show. Moya is steeped in Top Chef lore. The 29-year-old chef de partie at NYC's Casa Mono used to work at Kin Shop, the Thai restaurant opened by the original Top Chef champion, Harold Dieterle - and he’s been watching since Dieterle was on the show. He records every episode so he can watch after work.

“It’s the only real TV that I watch,” said Moya.
Despite his ties to the season 1 champ, Moya says his cooking more closely resembles season 4 runner-up and Top Chef All-Stars champion Richard Blais.

“I like his style, I like the way he thinks about cooking,” said Moya. “But I don’t get as over the top as he does with some of the flavor combinations.”

There are plenty at the audition who see something of themselves in former Top Chef personalities, but Robert Broadwater is unlike anyone who has ever been on the show.

Clad in a gray pinstripe suit and reading Wednesday morning’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, the 55-year-old managing director of the investment banking firm Broadwater and Associates isn’t worried about competing with professional chefs.

“I’ve watched the show a few times, in fact, recently. And I watched them flail around trying to make something as easy as fried chicken,” Broadwater said. “I can do that with my eyes closed.”

He’s definitely got confidence, but what about experience in the restaurant business?

“I was a busboy once; I worked at a bakery in Paris at one point, and I was a shrimp rancher,” Broadwater said.

There’s no telling how Broadwater and Moya’s pitches played with the Top Chef producers (Bravo granted Zagat access under the condition that we not talk to anyone after their interview for the show), but even if they make it through this stage, there’s at least one more round of interviews before the hundreds of applicants are whittled down to two dozen cheftestants.

And then, of course, millions of Americans will watch all but one be told to “pack up your knives and go.”

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