Last spring, New Orleans chef John Besh filmed an episode of Top Chef as a judge for one of the challenges midway through the competition. Several months later, 25 of his employees reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault while working for him, and Besh announced his departure from the group that he founded. The chef had been mentioned in press releases and other promotional materials for Season 15 of Top Chef that were released a week before Brett Anderson’s shocking Times-Picayune report came out.
In the wake of these revelations Bravo, the network that airs Top Chef, announced that it was “evaluating” the episode that featured Besh. And now, a few days after the show’s Season 15 premiere, a rep for Bravo sends word: “In light of recent events, we have removed John Besh from the upcoming episode.”
“Bravo to Bravo for making this decision,” Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio tells Eater. “Ultimately it was their decision to make, and I know when it was brought up early on, when the stories first broke about John, their response was that they didn’t know how to edit him out, but they worked really hard to do that. So it’s great that they spent the time and did the right thing.” Colicchio says that he called Magical Elves, the production crew behind Top Chef, to discuss the Besh episode as soon as the news about the Besh Group misconduct came out.
Reality shows like Top Chef have so many moving parts that it can take weeks to edit the footage into single episodes that adhere to the program’s style. Things get even more complicated when a competition is involved — and when the story lines depend on one guest’s judgement. But with the premiere approaching, the team figured out a workaround that won’t disrupt the flow of the competition.
A version of the Top Chef premiere that was available for purchase on YouTube also included a brief shot of Besh in the closing credits (pictured above), but a rep for Bravo explains that this was a fluke. The disgraced New Orleans chef/restaurateur been erased from the other versions of this episode available across the internet’s many streaming platforms; chef Chris Cosentino now fills that shot.
The Besh cameo wasn’t the only thorny part of Top Chef: Colorado. One unfortunate moment of the Season 15 premiere featured contestant Melissa Perfit telling the camera: “I like to sexually harass the guys a little bit. Like, they do it to me, I’m giving it right back to them.” Colicchio notes that “if you go to see it now in reruns, you won’t see that” quote; true to his word, the line has been scrubbed from the version of the episode that’s currently available on Amazon Prime. “That was shot in May, and I guarantee you that comment would not have been made if it were today,” Colicchio says.
On Twitter, the New York-based chef/restaurateur has been actively sharing his thoughts about toxic kitchen culture, and the sexual harassment allegations that are getting lodged at some of the country’s prominent chefs. And in a recent essay for Medium, Colicchio noted: “Something’s broken here. It’s time that chefs and restaurant owners candidly acknowledge the larger culture that hatched all these crummy eggs, and have some hard conversations amongst ourselves that are long overdue.”
Now that Bravo has wiped John Besh out of Top Chef, all eyes are on ABC to see whether the network will give a similar treatment to Johnny Iuzzini, the pastry chef and Great American Baking Show co-host who is being accused of sexual harassment by a group of former employees. ABC has not yet responded to Eater’s repeated inquiries about his participation in the show, which premiered last week. Stay tuned for more updates as they become available.