HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


'Top Chef' Ilan @ Craft?

I have recently been told that Ilan once worked at Craft. Does any one know if this is true?

If so it dose not seem right that his former boss was a judge.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yes he did - here's an interview he did on Friday, 1/26 (and a big EWWWWW!!! on the leading picture of Ilan! I did NOT need to see that at 9am on a Sunday morning!).


    Scroll down about one-third to the "toughest kitchen" question (or do a search on Craft")...I agree - I would think it would be against the show's rulesalthough that could also rule out some good chefs as potential contestants.

    (Eedited to say I would have seen this as a "conflict of interest - I couldn't think of it before; obviously not enough coffee in my system <g>),

    And the question asked just a few below that one about "culinary muses" and his response with the list of the line crew at Casa Mono? An inkling into Ilan's possible penchant for Marcel? A bit contradictory with his statement of a girlfriend, is it not?

    1. wow!! And yes, Linda, that's a disgusting pic to see first thing in the morning. What an arrogant ass.

      4 Replies
      1. re: IndyGirl

        The pic seems "Photoshopped" ! The head doesn't quite fit the torso.

        1. re: ChowFun_derek

          I think you're right! LOL! I just went back to look at it (since I scrolled past it so quickly this morning), and the coloring also doesn't seem right between the face and neck/torso.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            He is a photoshop geek; if you've seen his myspace page, you know what I mean. He seems to have too much time on his hands.

            1. re: IndyGirl

              No, MySpace.com is not a site I visit. But I have seen Ilan's page; had forgotten about some of the pics there.

      2. He said in an interview that he was going to travel for a while. Maybe he's doing a stage there.

        1. Ilan worked at Craft for one week briefly before starting at Casa Mono. He was fired for his bad attitude. What's funny is that in an interview he says that since then, the chef de cuisine "has apologized." For what, I wonder? Line cooks with the bad attitude should be making the apologies, no?

          Anyway, it is indeed a conflict of interest. In fairness to Colicchio, he says he didn't know Ilan worked for one of his restaurants. However, the craft website promoted Ilan asking viewers to tune in and watch one of their former cooks. That's just tasteless.

          19 Replies
          1. re: gingersweetiepie

            PS, that is NOT Ilan's body. There's no hairy chest.

            1. re: gingersweetiepie

              Can't have it both ways.'Don't know him but he's one of ours'...At the very least Colicchio should have addressd the issue in the show.

              1. re: Withnail42

                The judges avoided socializing with the contestants until after the series was filmed. Colicchio said in his blog that he didn't find out until afterwards that Ilan had worked at Craft.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Wow, I'm not saying Colicchio is a liar or anything, but that just seems hard o believe. Don't the judges have access to the resumes of the cheftestants? I remember that Colicchio knew Mikey had worked for chilis in the episode where they had to cook for firefighters. .....?

                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    Colicchio found out that Ilan worked for Craft during filming, not after. But between running an empire of restaurants, doing events and press, it's entirely believable that he had never seen Ilan in the kitchen. For God's sake, I've worked for chefs who don't know the name of their longtime dishwashers. (Despicable, but that's beside the point...)

                    1. re: gingersweetiepie

                      I don't understand how this wasn't revealed during the casting process. All candidates should have been asked very detailed questions about their work experience, to eliminate any connection to any of the judges, their restaurants or to the Bravo network. Pretty basic stuff in reality casting.

                      1. re: Clarissa

                        Wasn't revealed? He discloses it on his audition video!

                        1. re: gingersweetiepie

                          Egads, then I think casting him was just totally wrong. True, I despise the guy and think the show would have been much better without him, but I really do think that they should never have cast him. Can't see what's so special about him that they couldn't resist -- he's not particularly interesting or appealing, nor is he a dazzling chef. His main talent is his arrogance, followed by his visciousness. I'm sure they had many other candidates who would have been as interesting, who didn't work at Craft.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Jeez, Robert, you're quite the skeptic and seem to challenge a lot of boring simple things I say. Why would I make something like that up? For God's sake, the audition tapes, in their entirety, were all posted on the Bravo site for some time. If they removed the one where Ilan says he worked at Craft, there's a reason why.

                              Regardless, plenty of people knew that Ilan worked at Craft before the season even began. All it takes is a freakin' line cook in the know.

                              ETA: here's the link: http://www.bravotv.com/Top_Chef_2/vid...

                              1. re: gingersweetiepie

                                I just couldn't find the video. Doesn't seem to be a link for it in the videos menu.

                                Seems like the producers should have picked up on that.

                        2. re: gingersweetiepie

                          no, I can see that, knowing that Craft is a group of restos. But....meh. It just rubs me the wrong way. Even though it was a week...why hadn't either of them mentioned it before? That alone makes it look weird.

                          1. re: IndyGirl

                            Oversight on Bravo's part, most likely.

                            If they already had several shows in the can when it came out that Ilan had worked at Craft, what were they going to do?

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Gingersweetiepie said that Ilan said it in his audition interview. Rather unprofessional of the casting people and producers to cast him after that.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                They kick them off the show...its happened before. Makes very good tv.

                                1. re: Withnail42

                                  They kicked someone off a show for having previously worked for one of of the judges, even though the contestant had disclosed that to the producers? That doesn't sound like good TV to me.

                      2. re: Withnail42

                        you're right - can't have it both ways. if Ilan was there for a short time, it's entirely possible Colicchio didn't see/know him - let's face it, when was the last time he actually cooked at Craft (or any of his restaurants) himself?

                        as somebody said earlier - don't the judges look at resumes? (of course, a short stint ending in firing is not sth to put on a resume - then again, it all comes out sooner or later)

                        i don't know how much such a short stint (as opposed to directly working under the chef) might sway anyone's opinion. though see this as a problem, does anyone think that staging/externing/working briefly at any of Colicchio's restaurants should disqualify a contestant?

                        1. re: nuxvomica

                          Yes, I honestly think it should disqualify a contestant. Having any relationship at all matters, even if a contestant worked for somebody related to one of the judges but not for an actual judge. It just doesn't look right, and that should matter to producers.

                          1. re: nuxvomica

                            Were the judges involved in selecting the contestants? I don't think so.

                      3. In fairness, one week followed by getting canned hardly counts as working for a place. I've worked for places for over half a year and opted not to include it in my CV. It's just funny how it can go both ways, exactly as withnail points out.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gingersweetiepie

                          You're right. Plus, if anything, someone that worked for me for a week and was then fired would bias me AGAINST the cheftestant. Since he won, I guess it's a non-issue.

                        2. It only adds to the controversy. You’ve got a ‘winner’ of questionable talent and shows no depth or scope to their cooking. Someone who sat back and took no risks. The same person who probably should have been thrown out for instigating an attack on another contestant. At best an extremely unprofessional and mean-spirited cook. Then to top it all off, turns out they have worked for one of the judges.

                          It does make you wonder…

                          1. Not even close to being a Chef. The simple truth is thst he's a cook, and learned from ok bosses. No imagination at all and no experience. Bobby Flay, as hateful as he is, has both, and got the latter early. His old man was in the business so he got ringside views from early on, and then had partner mentors. This kid Ilan will go the crash and burn route of many others before him. The show is a mistake for these kids, the judgings is hit and miss, the criteria applied is faulty. Remember: a chef is the leader of a brigade of cooks with many administrative responsibilities to perform. I own a modest but busy restaurant, and not one of the people on the show, with the exceptions of Sam and Harold could last five minutes in a real restaurant situation with the performance required therein.

                            1. It's in here also -- http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainm...
                              Apparently Tom was the one who canned him for having a crappy attitude. Something doesn't sit right....

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Gigigirl2

                                Doesn't look like the writer of that story had any sources other than the text and videos on Bravo's Web site. There's nothing there to indicate that Colicchio personally fired him.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Regardless of Big Toms past dealings with Ilan the whole thing is just odd.

                              2. Perhaps I'm excessively cynical, but I don't understand why anyone expects Top Chef to be conducted with any concern about fairness to the participants. When the producers get to veto which contestants are eliminated, that tells me that ratings are the show's most important concern. And product placement appears to be a close second in their priorities.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: creepygirl

                                  Per Colicchio's blog, the producers only vetoed the judges' decision to eliminate Cliff, Ilan, Sam, and Elia in episode 11, which would have made Marcel the winner by default and left them two shows short of a season.

                                2. Perhaps Ilan went after Colicchio with hair clippers and thats why Ilan was fired and why Colicchio is bald?

                                  1. By the way here's the text of the interview exchange in http://tc2blogger.blogspot.com mentioned above:

                                    JJ: What's the toughest kitchen you've ever worked in?

                                    IH: Funny enough, the kitchen at Craft was a tough one for me. Like many New York kitchens, it's in a basement, so in the winter there were some shifts where I wouldn't even see daylight. It was a little depressing. But I learned so much, I'm glad I had the opportunity to work there.

                                    It's clear that he worked at Craft and that everyone involved with the show knew it. If Craft indeed publicized Ilan as one of their own (the current Craft newsletter highlights the finale of the show) we're talking about a product tie-in here. The problem is that this is supposed to bear 'some resemblance' to an actual competition. Ilan is a product placement for Craft. Very duplicitous. If Colicchio stays on the show next season I'll take a pass thanks. And ditto for Craft/Bar/Wich/Steak/NY/LA/LV/Dallas.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mrfood1965

                                      The brand name that benefited from Ilan's participation was Casa Momo.

                                      Craft already gets mentioned in every show when the voiceover explains who Colicchio is, and it comes up in his comments. If the producers were going to give Craft more product placement they'd have picked an employee, not somebody who got fired three years ago after working there a week.

                                      1. re: mrfood1965

                                        "In the winter there were some shifts..."

                                        He makes it sound like a lot more than a week.

                                      2. WRT the contestant selection process, even BRAVO is pretty much out of the loop until the end. The selection is done by a collection of agencies, most of whom cast for other shows like Project Runway, Top Designer, and the one with the hairstylists.

                                        Most of them don't follow restaurants with the passion we do, and wouldn't immediately put 2 and 2 together the way we would put Tom Colicchio & Craft.

                                        I believe they are tasked to go out & get certain archetypes; the diva, the regular guy, the hot chick, etc., and make sure they have the chops to keep up in the "Kenmore Professional Kitchen." Where the chefs got those skills is pretty irrelevant unless it's a notable brand like Chili's, TGIF, or The French Laundry :)

                                        Outside of NYC, Craft just doesn't have that kind of brand recognition yet. Though it seems Chef Tom is working on that...

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: foodiegrl

                                          Magical Elves, the company that produces the show, chooses the contestants. Randy Bernstein is the casting director. Magical Elves also does Project Runway but he didn't cast that. Neither is involved with Top Design.

                                          Here's an interview with Bernstein, fast-forward to 9'19":


                                          Here's Magical Elves' application for Top Chef 3:


                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Yes, but Danielle Barba Casting was at the open call in SF this week.
                                            They do casting for the Bachelor, so we know that food & restaurants aren't necessarily top-of-mind for them.

                                            Randy's a bona fide food geek, but they can't all be so dialed in to the industry, which is how the Colicchio/Craft disconnect probably occurred.