'Top Chef: Seattle': Wolfgang Puck talks joining the judges' table

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wolfgang-puck-top-chef-seattle-bravo.jpgThe tenth season of Bravo's "Top Chef" has a new location -- Seattle -- and a new judge: restaurant mogul Wolfgang Puck.

The Austrian-born cooking icon has been a guest judge in previous seasons, but now he's landed a permanent spot in the judges table rotation alongside Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson and Emeril Lagasse. (And don't worry, Padma Lakshmi is still the host.)

"Top Chef: Seattle" promises a "back to basics" season that will test the cheftestants' mastery of "primary skills." As Puck explains, to win this year, not only do you need to be an excellent and inventive chef -- you better know how to cook an omelet...

Here are five things we learned from a conference call with Puck promoting the new season:

On why he wanted to be a "Top Chef" judge...

Wolfgang Puck:
"I think it makes it easy for me because I don't really have to cook, you know, I just have to taste and give my opinion. It's always fun to see the young chefs being all nervous, being all worked up. They're tired and so on, but they have to perform and sometimes they do really well and sometimes people make silly mistakes where you say, 'What happened today? Yesterday it was so good!'"

On whether or not being a judge is as fun as it looks...

"Little bits and pieces are very much fun and a lot of it's not. When you condense it into small parts it looks like it's fun, but you need a lot of different angles and a lot of different lines to really make it interesting. I think the way they shoot the show is really very important. You really need a lot of cameras to catch every moment possible. If you didn't have all of the cameras then you would not be able to do that. You would probably miss a lot. When you look at the [contestants]: they're excited, they are laughing, being happy, being sad and so on. That's really an interesting thing on TV because you don't really see it when you are a judge as much."

On the advice he'd give cheftestants to stay consistent in the competition...

"I think the most important thing when you are in a competition ... [is] do something you feel confident with, not something completely new where you are not sure how many hours or how many minutes you have to cook it or if the seasoning is right or if the combinations of spices and herbs are right. Do something [you] are familiar with. Just do that maybe in a different fashion. Don't go and cook Indian food if you never cooked Indian food, you know?"

On the most unexpected part of being a judge...

"The most unexpected part was really the first episode. And I think when you watch it you're going to know why, because I really thought that a lot of the chefs who participate lack a basic foundation. If you're in France, Austria, Italy, somewhere and you do an apprenticeship you learn the basics. What I was surprised with [on the show was] a lot of people know how to do recipes, but the basics are very difficult for them, like cooking a perfect omelet."

On whether or not the cheftestant's personalities ever impact the judging process...

"I don't really weigh it. I have too much experience with chefs and cooks I hire in the restaurant. Some of them have the big talk and they come in very much like a bullfighter would go into an arena. Then I give them three eggs and I say, 'Make me an omelet.' I give them a regular pan, not a Teflon coated pan, and most of them just look and say, 'Wow what is the big deal?' And most of them cannot make it right. So I show them in two seconds and [say], 'You know what? You talk a lot, but you don't even know how to cook eggs.'"
Photo/Video credit: Bravo