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‘Top Chef’ Season 21: How to watch, what to expect

Kristen Kish is the new judge of "Top Chef." Season 21 of the show premieres on Wednesday. File Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI
Kristen Kish is the new judge of "Top Chef." Season 21 of the show premieres on Wednesday. File Photo by Jason Szenes/UPI

March 20 (UPI) -- Top Chef is kicking its 21st season off on Wednesday night with a new host, highlighting a new American city, Wisconsin.

Kristen Kish, who won Season 10 of Top Chef is replacing former host Padma Lakshmi, who exited the show after filming Season 20 in 2023. Kish will join longtime judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio, who traveled to Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., to film the show for six weeks.

Season 21 contestants include a chef who worked at The French Laundry and The Nomad, a 24-year-old Michelin star restaurant chef de cuisine and a James Beard Award finalist. Each will gear up for Wisconsin-themed challenges.

How to watch

Top Chef Season 21 premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT on Bravo.

Left to right, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons arrive on the red carpet at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group Upfront in New York City in 2015. Lakshmi left "Top Chef" after Season 20. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Left to right, Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons arrive on the red carpet at the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group Upfront in New York City in 2015. Lakshmi left "Top Chef" after Season 20. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Contestants

There will be 15 chefs competing on Top Chef this season. They are: Kaleena Bliss of Chicago; Kevin D'Andrea of Austin, Texas, Alisha Elenz of Chicago, Danny Garcia of New York, Valentine Howell Jr.of Boston, Dan Jacobs of Milwaukee, Wis., Manny Barella Lopez of Denver, Savannah Miller of Durham, N.C., David Murphy of San Francisco, Kenny Nguyen of Athens, Ga., Laura Ozyilmaz of San Francisco, Charly Pierre of New Orleans, Amanda Turner of Austin, Texas, Rasika Venkatesa of San Francisco and Michelle Wallace of Houston.

Chef Carla Hall will appear on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Chef Carla Hall will appear on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

New host

The search for a new host began in 2023, when Padma Lakshmi announced she would be leaving the show as a host and producer. Kristen Kish, who won Season 10 of Top Chef after redemption on Last Chance Kitchen was chosen to replace Lakshmi early in 2024.

Chef and "The Bear" star Matty Matheson will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
Chef and "The Bear" star Matty Matheson will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI

"I know what it feels like when you're asked to leave the competition -- it's not a nice thing to hear or say," she told People. "But being here is already a really fantastic accomplishment. There are so many people who try out for the show and not a lot of chefs make it. So the fact of the matter is they got on, they did a challenge and hopefully they can walk away with their head held high."

Past 'Top Chef" winners, finalists return

Clea DuVall will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
Clea DuVall will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI

Sara Bradley, Joe Flamm, Jeremy Ford, Gregory Gourdet, Stephanie Izard, Carla Hall, Ed Lee, Mei Lin, Buddha Lo, Kwame Onwuachi, Shota Najikama, Amar Santana, Justin Sutherland and Bryan Voltaggio will return for appearances in Season 21.

Guest judges, dining panel

W. Kamau Bell will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
W. Kamau Bell will be a guest judge on "Top Chef" Season 21. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Several stars will appear as guest judges or on the dining panel this season. They include Dane Baldwin, W. Kamau Bell, Charlie Berens, Ryan Braun, Paul Bartolotta, Dominique Crenn, Curtis Duffy, Clea Duvall, Andrew Kroeger, Emeril Lagasse, Hunter Lewis, Bricia Lopez, Tory Miller, Itaru Nagano, Carrie Nahabedian, Joe Papach, Shaina Papach, Justin Pichetrungsi, Sofia Roe, Sean Sherman, Adam Siegel, Helmi Smeulders, Art Smith, Brittany Snow, Elena Terry, Christina Tosi, Erick Williams and David Zilber.

Location

Wisconsin is best known for its love for cheese and beer, but it has more than that. The state has a rich relationship with food dating back centuries. When settlers from Germany and Sweden joined Norwegians, and Finns arrived in the area they brought and created new recipes using wild game, fish and produce native to the state.

Butter-laden cakes and cookies, weisse beer, sauerbraten, schnitzel and pumpernickel bread joined other foods like lutefisk from the Scandinavians and custard-style puddings and Danish doughnuts. Now known for a wide array of foods, items like butter burgers, Bloody Marys, beer soup, cheese curds, fish fry and bratwursts are some of the most well known.