'Top Chef All Stars' Squabble Makes My Toes Curl

Kim Conte

elia abourmrad top chefTop Chef tends to be the reality show with the least amount of drama. But that changed in last night's Top Chef All Stars reunion episode when Elia Aboumrad and head judge Tom Colicchio went head-to-head in one of the most cringe-worthy arguments of all time.

First, a little background: After Aboumrad was the first chef to be eliminated back in December, she ranted to the press about Colicchio. She not only complained that he treated her unfairly on the show, she also took shots at his use of corn-fed beef in his restaurants and his Diet Coke endorsement, saying, "Fame gets to your head and makes it grow, very sadly ... He has become someone who is not all about the food anymore." Yowza!

Last night when host Andy Cohen asked Aboumrad to address her very strong statements, she reiterated her criticisms, going as far as calling Colicchio a "sell-out." For his part, Colicchio remained generally poised but couldn't resist giving her a verbal lashing of his own near the end of the segment:

I understand that you're upset, and that's fine ... being the first person to go, obviously, it was difficult. There are four people on the panel, four judges, this was something that was a unanimous decision. This wasn't personal but you chose to make it personal ... I consider it off-limits commenting on what you're doing in your restaurant. This is a good lesson as a young chef: Be careful what you say in the press.

Several of the other chefs, while uncomfortable, seemed to be nodding in agreement with Aboumrad's point -- that if a chef as high-profile and successful as Colicchio strove to always use responsible practices in his restaurants (sourcing from small farmers, serving sustainably raised, grass-fed animals, etc.), it would set an important precedent for the rest of the restaurants in the country and change the way we eat. But is calling an icon like Colicchio a "sell-out" on national TV a good idea? That's something I'd like to remain tight-lipped about.

At the very least, it made for some great TV!

What did you think of the Colicchio-Aboumrad exchange?

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