Everybody loves a villain (especially TV producers)
Despite his reputation, he’s friendly and talkative with a laid back, cool-dad demeanor and easy smile. His cooking style is straight-forward, old-school New York, which, to be fair, is not for everyone -- including, apparently, the good people of Dallas, Texas. “When I took over for Dean Fearing at [Dallas fine dining institution] The Mansion, I came in and completely changed the program,” he told me, busy working a pillow of yellow pasta dough.
“I threw out all the Southwestern food and started doing my food -- fresh seafood, steak. A lot of people, they hate change. That’s how I got the 'most hated chef' reputation. And as soon as that happened, all the reality shows came knocking at my door. The whole bad boy thing makes for a good story.” A smart businessman, Tesar merely took the neg straight to the bank.
As far as reality TV goes, Top Chef is pretty real
Aside from the villainizing thing, Tesar told me that what we see on TV is a surprisingly realistic portrayal of what actually goes down. “None of it is rigged,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll edit the order of things or leave some stuff out for a particular story, but all the cooking, the competitions, the twists, the judging -- that’s all very real.” Music to my ears.
And they totally work their asses off
The rumors are true: Top Chef is just as intense and grueling as it looks, with cheftestants go-go-going on very little sleep, a boatload of pressure, and unstoppable drive. “They used to be like, ‘John, be on set at 5am tomorrow for interviews,’” Chef remembered. “After that we’d have a full day of running around, sweating our asses off until late that night. And then we were up doing it again the next day.”