Eleven years ago, I got hooked on Top Chef while… ironically… working out at the gym. I don’t think the other gym-goers appreciated the decadent food visuals- I got a lot of side-eye- but I was mesmerized by the lightning fast pace of the challenges and the culinary problem-solving. That initial encounter blossomed into full blown fandom; I’ve interviewed chef-testants and dined at their restaurants. It’s crazy to think that the latest installation marks the show’s FIFTEENTH season- and that one of Connecticut’s own chefs will be one of fifteen to compete for the coveted title. Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwright’s in Simsbury will vie for Top Chef when the series debuts on December 7!
“One of the main reasons I went on was to represent the state of CT,” Anderson said. “There are some Chefs, Restaurateurs and Artisans doing some amazing things in this state, I wanted to try and raise that awareness.”
Anderson’s Top Chef journey began when someone from casting reached out to him and asked him if he was interested in doing the show. From there, he went through an extensive audition process including trips to California and psych evaluations. About three weeks prior to filming, he received official word that he’d made the cut. Anderson, a James Beard nominee with a following here at home, had to make preparations for his departure.
“I have a really great team at Millwright’s and we’ve worked together a long time, so I felt super confident letting them take the reins,” he explained.
However, Anderson was also in the process of opening The Cook & The Bear with James McDonald of Bear’s Smokehouse.
“Chef there Ed Jones really crushed a lot of the opening duties leading up that I would have normally been involved with,” he told me.
The upcoming season will take place in Colorado, though Anderson notes production was “very tight” about what they could go out and do.
“We were able to contact our loved ones, but they took away our phones, computers, etc,” he revealed. “For good reason: they really want to monitor our communication with the ‘real world.’”
On set, they had “some interaction, but not much” with the judges, who liked to keep things “very professional. That didn’t stop Anderson from praising head judge Tom Colicchio though! He raved, “Chef Tom is the man…. Best judge in the food judging business without a doubt and still very much a cook at heart.”
Tasting lasted about two months, with chef-testants sharing a house in between competing in shorter “quickfire” challenges and more complex elimination challenges.
“I learned a lot from the other competitors watching them cook, chatting at the house…,” said Anderson. It was a very diverse group of chefs, who all threw down in their own way. The main reason I wanted to go on Top Chef was because the quality of the competitors is far better than any other show.”
“Cooking on Top Chef is really wildly different then cooking in the restaurants. You really have to go with the flow and be ready for all the crazy stuff they throw at you,” he continued. “Top Chef is definitely more difficult, because you are never cooking on your home turf, with your own kitchens tools and most importantly no support staff. You do it all yourself on Top Chef.”
Though Anderson cannot reveal how far he made it or any outcomes from the show, he did note that he enjoyed the idea of the elimination challenges more because “there was a lot more time for the planning and execution.”
I went in to just be myself and cook my food,” he emphasized. “I really like to have a good time and really like to make the people who eat my food happy and I hope that comes across in the show.”