When it comes to food, new "Top Chef All-Stars" judge Anthony Bourdain is a fan of simplicity.
"I think a common mistake is people tend to overcomplicate. They tend to overreach rather than doing a simple, good thing, which is often what the judges crave," says Bourdain, who joins the "Top Chef" judging panel alongside Gail Simmons and head judge chef Tom Colicchio (with host Padma Lakshmi) when the Bravo series returns for its eighth cycle on Wednesday, Dec. 1.
"You know, if it's silly and pointlessly complicated, I tend to get cranky."
This time around, the show returns to New York to put a roster of 18 contestants who nearly won the title in the past seven seasons through a series of tasks and challenges, all with a Big Apple flair. Among the group: season five finalist Carla Hall; Spike Mendelsohn, a top-five finisher in season four; season five fan favorite Fabio Viviani; and Marcel Vigneron, a finalist from season two.
All 18 are professional chefs and restaurateurs, and all know how to take criticism, so Bourdain -- celebrated for his candor on his Travel Channel travelogue/food series "No Reservations" -- knows he'll be able to render an honest, frank opinion without bruising any feelings.
"Unlike some of the other shows, these are hardened professionals," he says. "They're all chefs in their own right; many of them run their own businesses. In this case, they're all veterans so they've been through the process before. You know, everybody has sort of bought into the concept. So I don't think that I have any role as mentor, particularly, nor do I feel any compulsion to be the resident son of a bitch. I'm passionate about my likes and dislikes. But being honest about my opinion is really all I would care to portray myself as being."
He continues, "This year, it's a very strong field. Not only is it a really strong field of contestants, but the challenges are cool, it's a very New York-centric show. They really got that right. So even if I wasn't on it, I'd be watching it."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times