8. Screwing up the protein
Look, if countless hours spent glued to the tube taught me anything, it’s that cooking protein correctly is paramount to success. If Colicchio says, even for a passing second, that your meat or fish is undercooked, overcooked, too hot, too cold, improperly butchered, prepared in a way that makes doesn’t make sense, or literally anything south of “pretty good,” you’re done for. Chef Tom’s only spit out two bites during his TC tenure, and they both involved warm fish. “We were in the desert in Las Vegas, and it was about 110 degrees. We were served more than room temperature raw fish,” he told Bravo after-the-fact. “Something about it just made that gag reflex go off.” Whether you’re working with shrink-wrapped chicken thighs or a $600 cut of veal, that ish is the cornerstone of any meal, and learning how to do it right is cooking 101.
9. Deviating from the challenge
This one’s a true no-brainer, yet somehow it keeps on coming up, season after season. Everybody wants to be Picasso, to put their own spin on the thing. That’s all well and good -- cooking is an art, after all -- but don’t stray so far that the actual assignment becomes a blur in the rear view. A challenge is a challenge for a reason -- there are rules, carefully designed rules meant to test chefs on particular skills, forms of creativity, and problem solving. If there were no rules, there wouldn’t be any competition, and then none of us would get to stare at Padma week after week.
10. Overselling or inaccurately selling a dish
Marketing rules everything, food included. Trump up your dish too much and even professional polite man Eric Ripert might approach it with wary skepticism. Even worse, never call something avocado gazpacho and then hand Padma a bowl of pureed guacamole (RIP Amar from Season 13, it was a good run). You’re never doing yourself a favor by stretching the truth.
11. Using too much -- or too little -- salt
Everyone throws down for a salt, but too much of a good thing is simply too much. Take Season 9’s Chef Chris Crary, for example, whose sodium-saturated dry-rubbed ribs sent him straight down to Last Chance Kitchen. Meanwhile, over on All-Stars, munchie mastermind Dale Talde almost lost his spot over an exceedingly dry and flavorless pasta and brussels sprouts conundrum. Mastering the middle ground between under-seasoned and over-salted is key.