Being seen stuffing your face on national television isn't exactly the most exciting idea. But when one of your favorite shows of all time, Top Chef, invites you to be a part of a super-special group of reporters judging the first challenge of the California edition, you say yes. If Padma Lakshmi can look like an ethereal goddess while chowing down on fish cakes, you can surely look normal enough to while chewing a meatball. Right?
Well, not exactly. First, Padma's beauty is otherworldly, so good luck trying to even get your hair half as shiny as hers. But second, no matter how many Quickfire challenges you've observed or Restaurant Wars episodes you've screamed over, nothing prepares you for a long day of eating dishes from 17—17!!!—different chefs. That's a lot of food in a short period of time.
So, in case you ever get an invite in the future, here are some things you should know about the real-life process behind your favorite TV show. Behold, 11 rules for eating your way through a Top Chef episode:
1. Get a blowout. You're going to be on TV, duh.
2. Pick an appropriate outfit. Something that will look nice on TV. Not too wrinkly. Black jeans are good for all occasions, right?
3. Eat breakfast. Trust me on this. No matter how many dishes you're about to eat, you don't want to be so starving that you run into the venue first and ravage the first handful of plates you see. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
4. Show up on time. Padma can arrive whenever she wants, but not you. You need to be punctual. "Oh, one of our hundred-plus extras can't make it? Too bad. Moving on." (Please note that Padma was, as far as I know, absolutely punctual. This is purely hypothetical.)
5. Get ready for showtime. Reapply your lip gloss. Decide that even though the sun isn't shining very brightly at the beautiful Hollywood venue, you definitely don't want to be squinting as you go to town on a pork belly meatball so you should wear your sunglasses. You'll look badass and slightly mysterious. Always a plus!
6. Strategize. Oh, Emeril Lagasse is cutting in front of you to taste the food from the Louisiana chef? That's definitely going to be on TV. Don't do dumb stuff in the background. Oh, the camera is there as one chef hands you his dish? Don't shove the tartare in your face like you haven't already eaten eight courses already.
7. Perfect your soundbites. No matter how long you eloquently speak to each dish on camera, the show's editors are going to use the most basic, dumbest thing you said anyway. "Absolutely my favorite." –Jean Bentley, Top Chef, 2015
8. Regret your wardrobe choices. Real talk: The bites might be small, but you are eating 17 different dishes in a 2-hour period. Perhaps pants that button were not the best idea.
9. Relive your excellent day, but only to a select group of people. You signed an NDA. No one can even know what show was filming. Save your gushing for your fellow reporters who signed the same non-disclosure document and avoid a potential lawsuit.
10. Forget all about it. That is, until you get an email that your episode is finally ready to screen. Then get super-nervous that you look like a dirty, unshowered moron and said only the stupidest things on TV.
11. Breathe a sigh of relief. You conducted yourself like a normal human being, and it's all captured for posterity on cable television. Tell your friends. Share your experience with the Internet. Remind your parents to set their DVRs. Know that you will forever get to brag that you were on Top Chef, and you didn't even make an idiot of yourself. Congratulations!
Top Chef California's two-night premiere airs Wednesday, Dec. 2 and Thursday, Dec. 3 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.