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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Top Chef
Presented by
StarringTop Chef contestants
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons21
No. of episodes316 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Dan Cutforth
  • Jane Lipsitz
Running time42 minutes
Production companyMagical Elves Productions
Original release
ReleaseMarch 8, 2006 (2006-03-08) –

Top Chef is an American reality competition television series which premiered on Bravo in March 2006. The show features chefs competing against each other in culinary challenges. The contestants are judged by a panel of professional chefs and other notables from the food and wine industry, with one or more contestants eliminated in each episode. The show is produced by Magical Elves Productions, the company that created Project Runway.[1]

The success of the show has resulted in multiple spin-offs, such as Top Chef Masters, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Top Chef Junior, Top Chef Amateurs, and Top Chef Family Style, as well as Spanish-language spin-offs, including Top Chef Estrellas [es] and Top Chef VIP. Numerous international adaptations of the show have also been produced.

The twenty-first season, Top Chef: Wisconsin, aired March – June 2024.[2] The series has been renewed for a twenty-second season.[3]

Show format

Basic format

Top Chef is a cooking show that uses a progressive elimination format. The beginning of each season starts with twelve to nineteen professional chefs selected through auditions. The chefs are brought to the season's host city or state, which typically inspires themes throughout the season. The chefs live in a provided apartment, house, or hotel during the season, with limited access to outside communication. In each episode, the chefs participate in a Quickfire Challenge and an Elimination Challenge (described below). The winner of the Quickfire Challenge is typically granted immunity from elimination, a prize, or another benefit for the following Elimination Challenge. As the name suggests, the loser of the Elimination Challenge is eliminated from the competition. This format continues until two or three chefs remain. Each finalist is then challenged to create a full-course meal; the chef with the best meal, as determined by the judges, is declared the "Top Chef" of the season. Towards the end of the season, when only four or five chefs remain, the show moves to another location to finish out the competition.

In the Quickfire Challenge, chefs must cook a dish that meets certain requirements (for example, using specific ingredients or inspiring a particular taste) or participate in a culinary-related challenge (for example, a mise en place relay race or a taste testing contest). They are usually given an hour or less to complete these tasks. The Quickfire Challenge traditionally begins with the host saying, "Your time starts now," and ends with the host saying, "Hands up, utensils down."[4] A guest judge selects one or more chefs as the best in the challenge. Early in the season, the winning chef(s) are granted immunity from the episode's Elimination Challenge. As the number of contestants dwindles, immunity is withdrawn, and instead, the winner receives an advantage (such as being the team leader for a team challenge or getting the first pick of ingredients) or a prize (such as chef's knives, wine, or cash). To emphasize the culture and environment of Season 6's Las Vegas setting, the show introduced "High-stakes Quickfire Challenges," which feature extravagant rewards, usually a large cash prize upwards of US$10,000. High-stakes Quickfire Challenges continued onward in further seasons. Season 12 of Top Chef introduced the "Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge," where the chef with the least successful dish faces immediate elimination unless they win a cook-off against another competitor.

In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs prepare one or more dishes to meet the challenge requirements, which often include a specific theme and are usually more complex and require more time to execute than a Quickfire Challenge. Elimination Challenges may be individual challenges or require chefs to work in teams; some may require the contestants to produce several courses. Teams may be selected by the remaining chefs, but are more often determined by a random process such as "drawing knives" from a knife block. The time limit for an Elimination Challenge may range from a few hours to a few days, typically including preparation and planning time. Ingredients for Elimination Challenges generally allow chefs access to the Top Chef pantry and the ingredients they previously purchased at a grocery store within a specified budget and shopping time limit. However, certain challenges may provide specific ingredients or limit the type or number of ingredients used, while others require non-traditional methods for obtaining ingredients (such as asking people door-to-door or fishing). After shopping, the contestants will cook for up to four judges, usually including at least one guest judge. In most cases, the contestants also cook for a group of guest diners.

After the Elimination Challenge, the chefs report to the Judges' Table, where the judges will deliberate on their choices for the best and worst dishes. The judges may also consider guests' comments, if available. The top individuals or teams are called in and may be asked questions about their dishes or preparation before they are notified of their placement. One or more chefs are named the winner of the challenge and may be awarded an additional prize by the guest judge. The same procedure is repeated with the poorest performing chefs or teams, after which a similar discussion occurs. From this group, one or more chefs are chosen for elimination, with the host asking the chef(s) to leave by saying, "Please pack your knives and go." This is usually followed by a knife-packing sequence for the eliminated chef(s), with a voice-over of their final thoughts about their performance, at the close of the episode. According to the credits, some elimination decisions are made in consultation with the show's producers.

The prize money awarded to the Top Chef was $100,000 for Seasons 1-5. It was increased to $125,000 for Seasons 6-7 and 9-16, with a temporary $200,000 prize for Season 8. It was then increased again to $250,000, beginning with Season 17.[5] Furthermore, a fan vote is held each season to determine the Fan Favorite, which features an additional $10,000 reward.

Special formats

Midway through each season, the contestants participate in a "Restaurant Wars" (or similarly named) Elimination Challenge. They are split into two teams, created by the previous Quickfire Challenge winner or by drawing knives. In these teams, the chefs must transform an empty space into a functioning pop-up restaurant within a set time limit and budget, selecting and creating the name, theme, décor, and menu. Typically, one team member is designated the role of executive chef, who is responsible for managing the kitchen and expediting food, while another team member is designated as front of house, who is responsible for training the waitstaff and managing the dining room. Various seasons have introduced twists to the standard Restaurant Wars formula. For example, Season 4 featured not only Restaurant Wars, but a "Wedding Wars" challenge as well. Season 16 introduced the challenge much earlier in the season, during its fourth episode, and utilized three teams instead of the usual two. Season 6 and Season 20 allowed chefs to work in an existing restaurant infrastructure, with the latter removing the front of house position in favor of multiple trained servers and a professional maître d'.

In the final Elimination Challenge, the two or three remaining chefs must prepare a multiple-course dinner with the assistance of sous chefs. These sous chefs could be previously eliminated contestants, members of the contestants' families, or celebrity chefs. The winner is selected based on the overall quality of their meal. There is typically no Quickfire Challenge during this episode.

Last Chance Kitchen

The Last Chance Kitchen is a web series, first introduced in Season 9, featuring challenges in which the contestants compete for a chance to re-enter the main competition. Each week, two or more previously eliminated chefs compete against each other in the Top Chef kitchen, with the results typically judged alone by Tom Colicchio. Each week's winner(s) moves on to face the next eliminated Top Chef contestant(s), while the loser is eliminated from the competition for good. Initially, only the winner of the final episode of Last Chance Kitchen returned to compete. However, beginning with Season 15, the format was changed to allow two chances to re-enter. The series won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media — Multiplatform Storytelling in 2013, and has been nominated five times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series.[6]


Season Subtitle Winner Runner(s)-up Fan Favorite Original air dates
1 San Francisco Harold Dieterle Tiffani Faison March 8 – May 24, 2006
2 Los Angeles Ilan Hall Marcel Vigneron Sam Talbot October 18, 2006 – January 31, 2007
3 Miami Hung Huynh Dale Levitski Casey Thompson Casey Thompson June 6 – October 13, 2007
4 Chicago Stephanie Izard Lisa Fernandes Richard Blais Stephanie Izard March 12 – June 11, 2008
5 New York Hosea Rosenberg Stefan Richter Carla Hall Fabio Viviani November 12, 2008 – March 4, 2009
6 Las Vegas Michael Voltaggio Bryan Voltaggio Kevin Gillespie Kevin Gillespie August 19 – December 16, 2009
7 D.C. Kevin Sbraga Ed Cotton Angelo Sosa Tiffany Derry June 16 – September 15, 2010
8 All-Stars Richard Blais Mike Isabella Carla Hall December 1, 2010 – April 6, 2011
9 Texas Paul Qui Sarah Grueneberg Chris Crary November 2, 2011 – March 7, 2012
10 Seattle Kristen Kish Brooke Williamson Sheldon Simeon November 7, 2012 – February 27, 2013
11 New Orleans Nicholas Elmi Nina Compton Nina Compton October 2, 2013 – February 5, 2014
12 Boston Mei Lin Gregory Gourdet October 15, 2014 – February 11, 2015
13 California Jeremy Ford Amar Santana Isaac Toups December 2, 2015 – March 17, 2016
14 Charleston Brooke Williamson Shirley Chung Sheldon Simeon December 1, 2016 – March 2, 2017
15 Colorado Joe Flamm Adrienne Cheatham Fatima Ali December 7, 2017 – March 8, 2018
16 Kentucky Kelsey Barnard Clark Sara Bradley Kelsey Barnard Clark December 6, 2018 – March 14, 2019
17 All-Stars L.A. Melissa King Bryan Voltaggio Stephanie Cmar Melissa King March 19 – June 18, 2020
18 Portland Gabe Erales Shota Nakajima Dawn Burrell Shota Nakajima April 1 – July 1, 2021
19 Houston Buddha Lo Evelyn Garcia Sarah Welch Damarr Brown March 3 – June 2, 2022
20 World All-Stars Buddha Lo Sara Bradley Gabri Rodriguez Amar Santana March 9 – June 8, 2023
21 Wisconsin Danny Garcia Dan Jacobs Savannah Miller Michelle Wallace March 20 – June 19, 2024


Top Chef Masters (2009–13)

Top Chef Masters features established, award-winning chefs, in contrast to Top Chef, which typically features younger, up-and-coming chefs. The series debuted on June 10, 2009, with contestants including Rick Bayless, John Besh, Michael Chiarello, Wylie Dufresne, Jonathan Waxman and Hubert Keller. As of 2013, five seasons have been produced and aired. During its first two seasons, food journalist Kelly Choi hosted the show, while restaurant critic Gael Greene, culinary expert and Saveur editor-in-chief James Oseland, and food critic Jay Rayner served as judges.[7] Beginning with the third season, celebrity chef Curtis Stone replaced Choi as host.[8]

Top Chef: Just Desserts (2010–11)

Top Chef: Just Desserts is a spin-off of the Top Chef format featuring pastry chefs. Bravo announced the series on October 25, 2009.[9] The show was hosted by Top Chef regular Gail Simmons. The judging panel included pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, Top Chef Masters finalist Hubert Keller, and DailyCandy's "editor-at-large" Dannielle Kyrillos.[10] The show debuted on Bravo on September 15, 2010, following the seventh season finale of Top Chef. The series was cancelled after two seasons.[11]

Top Chef Healthy Showdown (2011)

Top Chef Healthy Showdown is a special webisode series aired in 2011 sponsored by Healthy Choice. It featured former Top Chef contestants Sara Nguyen (Season 3), Ryan Scott (Season 4), Casey Thompson (Season 3, Season 8), and Tre Wilcox (Season 3, Season 8) competing in a series of Quickfire Challenges to win $25,000 and inspire a Top Chef line of Healthy Choice entrées.[12] The series was hosted by Curtis Stone; Ryan was declared the winner of the competition.

Life After Top Chef (2012)

Life After Top Chef is a spin-off featuring former Top Chef contestants Richard Blais, Jennifer Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn, and Fabio Viviani, which focuses on various aspects of their lives, from managing and opening a restaurant to dealing with family dynamics and personal issues. The series premiered on October 3, 2012.[13]

Top Chef Estrellas (2014)

Top Chef Estrellas is a Spanish-language spin-off featuring Hispanic celebrities competing to win $100,000 for their charity of choice.[14] It was hosted by actress Aylín Mújica and judged by chefs Lorena Garcia, Jaime Martín Del Campo, and Ramiro Arvizu.[14] As part of the adaptation, eliminated celebrities were not sent home, but rather became sous-chefs for the remaining contestants.[14] The series premiered on Telemundo on February 16, 2014.[14]

Top Chef Duels (2014)

Top Chef Duels brings back contestants from past seasons of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, pitting them against each other in head-to-head challenges.[15] The winner of each match-up advanced to the season finale, where one chef received $100,000.[15] The series premiered on August 6, 2014.[16]

Top Chef Junior (2017–18)

Top Chef Junior is a spin-off series originally ordered in 2008 for an eight-episode run on Bravo.[17][18] The show had never aired, nor is it known if any episodes were produced at that time. However, nine years later, Top Chef Junior was mentioned as part of the initial lineup for Universal Kids, an NBCUniversal-owned children's channel launched on September 9, 2017.[19] The series features young chefs between the ages of 9–14.[20] It was hosted by actress Vanessa Lachey, with Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels host Curtis Stone serving as its head judge.[20] The first season of Top Chef Junior premiered on October 13, 2017, and its second season premiered on September 8, 2018.[21][22]

Top Chef Amateurs (2021)

Top Chef Amateurs is a spin-off featuring home cooks competing in head-to-head challenges drawn from past seasons of Top Chef.[23] Production of the show began in October 2020 in Portland, Oregon, following the filming of Top Chef: Portland.[23] The series was hosted by Gail Simmons and premiered on July 1, 2021.[23][24]

Top Chef Family Style (2021)

Top Chef Family Style is a spin-off featuring young chefs teaming up with adult family members to compete for $100,000.[25] The series was ordered in May 2021 by streaming service Peacock.[25] It is hosted by singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor with Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson serving as head judge.[25] The series premiered on September 9, 2021, and episodes from the series made their linear premiere on Bravo in 2022.[26]

Top Chef VIP (2022–present)

Similar to Top Chef Estrellas, Top Chef VIP is a Spanish-language spin-off featuring Hispanic celebrities competing for $100,000.[27] It is hosted by actress Carmen Villalobos and judged by chefs Antonio de Livier, Adria Marina Montaño and Juan Manuel Barrientos.[27] The series premiered on Telemundo on August 9, 2022.[27]

International adaptations

Other media

Top Chef University

Top Chef University is a comprehensive online culinary school involving 12 courses and over 200 in-depth video lessons. The program takes participants through a structured program of the basics (knife skills, kitchen set-up, ingredients) to advanced culinary techniques (sous-vide, molecular gastronomy). The instructors at Top Chef University consist of the series' most successful and popular former contestants. Enrollment costs $25 for a monthly membership and $200 for an annual membership.[28]

Top Chef: The Game

Top Chef: The Game is a computer game released by Brighter Minds for PCs. It challenges players to create the best dish from items in a virtual pantry. Games magazine gave the game an unfavorable review, calling it a "quick cash-in... for an undiscriminating audience."[29]

TV dinners

To make certain dishes available to viewers who watch Top Chef but do not have time to prepare them, Schwan's Home Service started offering Top Chef—branded frozen meals in late 2009.[30]


On March 20, 2008, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Cookbook, with a foreword by Tom Colicchio.[31] On September 30, 2009, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook, with a foreword by Padma Lakshmi.[32] On July 14, 2010, Chronicle Books released How to Cook Like a Top Chef, with a foreword by Rick Bayless.[33]

Reception and awards


Top Chef was nominated at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007 for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming and Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for its second season.[34] Top Chef won the award for Outstanding Picture Editing For Reality Programming at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2008.[35] Top Chef won the award for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, defeating The Amazing Race, which had won the award every year since the category's inception in 2003.[36]

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named Top Chef one of the Top 10 Returning Series of 2007, ranking it at #10.[37]

In December 2023, Variety ranked Top Chef #97 on its list of the 100 greatest TV shows of all time.[38]


Season Season premiere Season finale
Date US viewers
(in millions)
Date US viewers
(in millions)
1 March 8, 2006 (2006-03-08) 1.30[39] May 24, 2006 (2006-05-24) 1.50[40]
2 October 18, 2006 (2006-10-18) 1.87[41] January 31, 2007 (2007-01-31) 3.89[42]
3 June 13, 2007 (2007-06-13) 2.02[41] October 3, 2007 (2007-10-03) 3.08[43]
4 March 12, 2008 (2008-03-12) 2.26[44] June 11, 2008 (2008-06-11) 3.51[45]
5 November 12, 2008 (2008-11-12) 2.70[46] February 25, 2009 (2009-02-25) 3.74[47]
6 August 19, 2009 (2009-08-19) 2.60[48] December 9, 2009 (2009-12-09) 3.40[49]
7 June 16, 2010 (2010-06-16) 1.80[50] September 15, 2010 (2010-09-15) 2.70[51]
8 December 1, 2010 (2010-12-01) 1.70[52] March 30, 2011 (2011-03-30) 2.77[51]
9 November 2, 2011 (2011-11-02) 1.59[53] February 29, 2012 (2012-02-29) 1.85[54]
10 November 7, 2012 (2012-11-07) February 27, 2013 (2013-02-27) 1.85[55]
11 October 2, 2013 (2013-10-02) February 5, 2014 (2014-02-05) 1.70[56]
12 October 15, 2014 (2014-10-15) 1.09[57] February 11, 2015 (2015-02-11) 0.96[58]

See also



  1. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (February 3, 2014). "Tinopolis Group Acquires 'Top Chef' Producer Magical Elves". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  2. ^ DeBianchi, Antonia (February 7, 2024). "Top Chef Gets 'Shaken Up' with New Rules and Kristen Kish as Host — See the Trailer and Meet the Chefs (Exclusive)". People. Archived from the original on February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 7, 2024.
  3. ^ "Top Chef Renewed for Season 22 (Along with Other Bravo Favorites)". The Daily Dish. May 9, 2024. Archived from the original on May 10, 2024. Retrieved May 10, 2024.
  4. ^ Perkins 2011, p. 2.
  5. ^ Perkins 2011, p. 3.
  6. ^ Carpentier, Megan (March 9, 2023). "Everything to Know About Last Chance Kitchen". Bravo. Archived from the original on March 11, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  7. ^ Reyhani, Monica A. (February 10, 2009). "Top Chef Masters News!". Bravo. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  8. ^ Stanhope, Kate (January 13, 2011). "Bravo Renews Top Chef, Bethenny and Five More". TV Guide. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Schneider, Michael (October 25, 2009). "'Desserts' on 'Top Chef' menu". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  10. ^ Forbes, Paula (July 1, 2010). "Top Chef: Just Desserts Judges Announced! Johnny Iuzzini, Hubert Keller, Dannielle Kyrillos". Eater. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  11. ^ Graser, Marc (November 6, 2012). "Fresh ingredients infuse 'Top Chef'". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Top Chef Vets Square Off in 'Healthy Showdown'". Bravo. September 14, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  13. ^ "Bravo Media Ventures Outside the Kitchen in "Life After Top Chef" Premiering Wednesday, October 3 at 10 PM ET/PT". The Futon Critic. August 27, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d Valdez, Maria G. (January 25, 2014). "'Top Chef Estrellas' Telemundo: Christian Chávez, Nancy Álvarez, Lorena Herrera And More To Compete In Latino Spin-Off". Latin Times. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Prudom, Laura (June 4, 2014). "'Top Chef Duels' Sets Premiere Date, Celebrity Judges To Include Shailene Woodley, Pink". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  16. ^ "'Top Chef Duels' Premieres in August: All the Details!". Bravo. June 4, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  17. ^ Rocchio, Christopher; Rogers, Steve (June 11, 2008). "Bravo developing 'Top Chef Junior' spinoff for young teenage chefs". Reality TV World. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  18. ^ Levine, Stuart (June 11, 2008). "Bravo order chef shows". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  19. ^ Barnes, Brooke (April 30, 2017). "NBCUniversal Is Building Its Own Children's Channel". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  20. ^ a b Mizoguchi, Karen (May 12, 2017). "Vanessa Lachey and Curtis Stone Join Top Chef Junior as Host and Head Judge". People. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  21. ^ Kinane, Ruth (September 14, 2017). "Top Chef Jr. competition heats up in kitchen boot camp sneak peek". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  22. ^ Hall, Gerrad (August 2, 2018). "See which young chefs make the cut in Top Chef Junior season 2 special". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 9, 2018.
  23. ^ a b c Aurthur, Kate (October 20, 2020). "'Top Chef Amateurs' Set at Bravo for 2021 (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  24. ^ "Bravo's Newest Culinary Competition "Top Chef Amateurs" Premieres Thursday, July 1 at 9 PM ET/PT" (Press release). Bravo. May 20, 2021 – via The Futon Critic.
  25. ^ a b c Shanfeld, Ethan (May 13, 2021). "Peacock Orders 'Top Chef,' 'Below Deck' Spinoffs". Variety. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  26. ^ Pedersen, Erik (August 19, 2021). "Peacock Sets Premiere Dates For 'American Ninja Warrior Junior' Season 3, New 'Frogger' & 'Top Chef Family Style' – Watch The Trailers". Deadline Hollywood.
  27. ^ a b c "'Top Chef VIP' is Coming: When and How to Watch". Telemundo. August 4, 2022. Retrieved August 10, 2022.
  28. ^ Kludt, Amanda (May 17, 2010). "Top Chef University Gets You 'Top Chef Certified' for Just $200". Eater. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  29. ^ McDonald, Thomas L. (May 2009). "Eat Any Good Games Lately?". Games Magazine: 65–67.
  30. ^ Stein, Joel (November 30, 2009). "Can Top Chef TV Dinners Live Up to Billing?". Time. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  31. ^ "Bravo Media Announces "Top Chef: The Cookbook" Published by Chronicle Books". The Futon Critic. January 9, 2008. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  32. ^ "Bravo Media Announces Brand Extensions with Multiple Licensing Partnerships". The Futon Critic. April 13, 2009. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  33. ^ Miller, Emily Wise (July 14, 2010). How to Cook Like a Top Chef. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-0811874861.
  34. ^ "Primetime Emmy Award Nominations, 2007". September 8, 2007. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  35. ^ "Outstanding Picture Editing For Reality Programming – 2008". Emmys. September 21, 2008. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  36. ^ Reyhani, Monica A. (August 29, 2010). "'Top Chef' Wins the Emmy!". Bravo. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  37. ^ Poniewozik, James (December 9, 2007). "Top 10 Returning TV Series". Time. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  38. ^ "The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". Variety. December 20, 2023.
  39. ^ "Season Finale of Bravo's 'Project Runway' Smashes Record to Become Most Viewed Telecast in Network History". The Futon Critic. March 9, 2006. Retrieved February 21, 2020.
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  • Perkins, Arthur (2011). Chef Wars: Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Top Chef-Just Desserts. Charleston, South Carolina: Author House. ISBN 978-1451521818.

External links

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