Top Chef

Top Chef (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Top Chef is an American reality competition show that airs on the cable television network Bravo, in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges. They 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 same company that created Project Runway.

The show has produced three spin-offs: Top Chef: Masters, featuring established, award-winning chefs, Top Chef: Just Desserts, featuring pastry chefs, and Top Chef Canada. One more spin-off is planned: Top Chef Junior, featuring contestants in their early teens.

Show format

Basic format

Generally, each episode of Top Chef, other than the finale has had two challenges.

The first is called the Quickfire challenge. Each chef must cook a dish that meets certain requirements (for example, using specific ingredients or inspiring a certain taste) or participate in a culinary-related challenge (for example, a mise en place relay or a taste test). They are usually given an hour or less to complete these tasks. 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 As the number of contestants dwindle immunity is withdrawn, and instead the winner receives an advantage (such as being team leader for a team challenge or getting first pick of ingredients) or a prize. To emphasise the culture and environment of the sixth season's Las Vegas setting, the show introduced "high-stakes" Quickfires, which featured an extravagant prize (usually a large cash prize); high-stakes Quickfires continued onward in further seasons. Occasionally, a Quickfire will also include the poorest performer 's elimination from the competition, and sometimes contestants have been dismissed for violations such as tasting a sauce with a finger.

The other is called an Elimination Challenge, in which the chefs prepare one or more dishes to meet the challenge requirements, which are usually more complex and require longer time to execute than a Quickfire challenge. Elimination Challenges may be individual challenges or may require chefs to work in a team; some may require a chef or chefs to produce several courses. Teams may be selected by the remaining contestants, but more often are selected by a random process such as by "drawing knives" from a butcher's block, with the team identification revealed on the blade of the knife. The chefs may have from a few hours to a few days to complete an Elimination Challenge, which typically includes preparation and planning time. Ingredients for Elimination Challenges generally allow chefs to access both what staples are available in the "Top Chef" pantry and what the chefs purchase 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 that can be used, while others require non-traditional methods of obtaining ingredients (such as asking people door-to-door or fishing) or preparation methods (such as tailgate cooking). After shopping, the contestants will cook for up to four judges, usually including at least one guest judge. In most cases, the contestants cook for a group of guests (for example, the cowboys in Colorado) as well.

After the Elimination Challenge ends, the chefs report to Judges' Table, where the four judges will consider the guests' comments (if available) and deliberate on their choices for the best and worst dishes. 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 team, after which similar discussion takes place. From this group, one chef is chosen for elimination, with the host asking the chef to "pack [their] knives and go." This is usually followed by a knife packing sequence for the eliminated chef, and 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 the first 5 seasons, and then increased to $125,000 from season 6 on. Season 8 prize money was for $200,000.

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 winner of the previous Quickfire Challenge, or by "drawing knives". In these teams, the chefs must transform an empty space into a restaurant within a set time limit and budget, selecting and creating the name, theme, decor, and menu. According to Dale Levitski, a season three finalist, this is one of the contestants' most anticipated challenges. Season four had not only "Restaurant Wars", but "Wedding Wars" as well.

In the final challenge, the two (or three) remaining chefs prepare a multiple course dinner with the help of other chefs. These other chefs could be previously eliminated chefs or celebrity chefs (for example, Rocco DiSpirito). The winning chef is selected based on several factors, including food quality, their ability to lead their assistant chefs, and general performance during the show. There is no Quickfire Challenge in this episode.


Judges Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tom Colicchio ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Gail Simmons ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Katie Lee Joel ?
Padma Lakshmi ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Ted Allen ? ?
Toby Young ? ?
Eric Ripert ?
Anthony Bourdain ?
Emeril Lagasse ? ?
Hugh Acheson ? ?
Wolfgang Puck ?


#LocationWinnerRunner(s)-upFan FavoriteFinale LocationAir Dates
1San Francisco, CaliforniaHarold DieterleTiffani FaisonNoneLas Vegas, NevadaMarch 8 " May 24, 2006
2Los Angeles, CaliforniaIlan HallMarcel VigneronSam TalbotWaikoloa Village, HawaiiOctober 18, 2006 " January 31, 2007
3Miami, FloridaHung HuynhDale LevitskiCasey ThompsonCasey ThompsonAspen, ColoradoJune 13 " October 13, 2007
4Chicago, IllinoisStephanie IzardLisa FernandesRichard BlaisStephanie IzardSan Juan, PRMarch 12 " June 11, 2008
5New York City, New YorkHosea RosenbergStefan RichterCarla HallFabio VivianiNew Orleans, LouisianaNovember 12, 2008 " March 4, 2009
6Las Vegas, NevadaMichael VoltaggioBryan VoltaggioKevin GillespieKevin GillespieNapa, CaliforniaAugust 19 " December 16, 2009
7Washington, D.C.Kevin SbragaEd CottonAngelo SosaTiffany DerrySingaporeJune 16 " September 15, 2010
8New York City, New YorkRichard BlaisMike IsabellaCarla HallThe BahamasDecember 1, 2010 " April 6, 2011
9San Antonio, Texas / Dallas, Texas / Austin, TexasPaul QuiSarah GruenebergChris CraryVancouver, British ColumbiaNovember 2, 2011 " March 7, 2012
10Seattle, WashingtonTBATBATBDTBANovember 7, 2012 "

Special episodes

4 Star All Star (Season One vs. Season Two)

On June 6, 2007, as part of the buildup for season 3, Bravo aired a special charity episode called "4 Star All Star", which awarded $20,000 to the charity of the winning team's choice. The show brought together season 1 contestants Stephen, Harold, Dave, and Tiffani, and pitted them against season 2 contestants Ilan, Elia, Marcel, and Sam. The show format was kept the same, with a Quickfire Challenge to start, followed by an Elimination Challenge. The show was filmed in Miami Beach at the kitchen and hotel used for season 3. Padma Lakshmi hosted.

  • Quickfire Challenge: Create a two-egg breakfast dish in 10 minutes, using only one hand. Prize: An extra $100 for the overall winner's team to spend on groceries for the Elimination Challenge.
    • SEASON 1 TEAM WINNER: Stephen.
    • SEASON 2 TEAM WINNER: Marcel.
    • OVERALL WINNER: Season 1
  • Elimination Challenge: Prepare a four-course meal for the season 3 contestants consisting of scallops, lobster, duck, and Kobe beef. Teams were given 30 minutes of shopping time, with season 1 able to spend $300 and season 2 able to spend $200. Teams were given two hours of cooking time. Courses were served head to head, with the team that wins the most courses winning the challenge.
    • SCALLOPS: Dave made cold smoked scallops & triple olive tapenade with lemon vinaigrette. Elia made a scallop duo with citrus marmalade and endive salad. Elia won.
    • LOBSTER: Stephen made lobster poached in beurre blanc with cauliflower crème anglaise. Marcel made a lobster duo with vanilla gelée and lobster foam. Stephen won.
    • DUCK: Harold made spicy duck meatballs with minted gnocchi. Ilan made almond stuffed duck breast with wild rice, white asparagus & raw egg yolk. Harold won.
    • KOBE BEEF: Tiffani made Kobe beef two ways served with creamy polenta. Sam made seared Kobe beef with mushroom confit & onion relish. Tiffani won.
    • OVERALL WINNER: Season 1, with three wins.
  • Judges: Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Ted Allen.
  • Stephen, as winner of the season 1 team in the Quickfire, became team captain for the Elimination and got to choose his team's charity. He chose Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
  • Marcel, as winner of the season 2 team in the Quickfire, became team captain for his team. He chose Share Our Strength for his charity.
  • Prior to the Quickfire Challenge, season 1 contestant Lee Anne Wong was introduced as having been hired as a food consultant for Top Chef. This also explained Lee Anne's absence from the competition, as she was the fourth-place contestant in the first season of the show.

Top Chef Holiday Special

The December 24, 2007 special brought selected chefs from all three seasons back with a prize of $20,000 for the winner. Padma Lakshmi presided as host, with regulars Ted Allen, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons among the judges. The following Chefs participated: Tiffani Faison and Stephen (season 1); Josie, Marcel Vigneron, and Betty (season 2); CJ, Tre, and Sandee (season 3). It was shot in Chicago, Illinois.

  • Quickfire Challenge: Chefs drew knives to determine the order in which they would choose gifts"?ingredients"?from under the tree. Upon their turn, the chef could either choose to 'steal' an already opened gift of another chef, or take a new gift from under the tree.
    • Winner: CJ (Roasted walnuts sauteéd with apples & shrimp)
    • Guest Judge: Eric Ripert
    • Prize: One free pass to the next round during the Elimination Challenge. (The pass could not be used to advance to the final round.)
  • Elimination Challenge: Create a three-course meal for a party of nine. After each course, two chefs will be eliminated.
    • Course 1: Stephen and Sandee eliminated.
    • Course 2: Josie and Betty eliminated.
    • Course 3: Marcel and CJ eliminated.
  • Surprise Challenge: After the three courses, Tiffani and Tre were given a surprise challenge to create an additional dish, utilizing anything left in the kitchen, in 30 minutes.
    • WINNER: Tiffani
    • Winning Menu:
      • First Course: Bacon-Wrapped Apples with Brussels Sprout Salad & Apple Chicken Jus
      • Second Course: Roasted Duck Breast on Spaetzle with Wine & Orange Jus
      • Third Course: Salted Butterscotch Pudding with Whipped Cream
      • Surprise Course: Braised Veal on Puff Pastry with Truffle Butter.
  • Guest Judges: Eric Ripert, Elizabeth Falkner, Norman van Aken, Alan Wong, Alfred Portale

Top Chef Reunion Dinner

On November 4, 2009, Fabio Viviani from season five has invited contestants from his season and those in the past for what is supposed to be a convivial gathering of chefs cooking, eating and talking. Chefs who attended were: Harold and Tiffani from season one; Ilan and Marcel from season two; Casey, Dale,and Hung from season three; Richard and Lisa from season four and Carla, Fabio and Stefan from season five.

DVD release

Season 5 was released on DVD in Region 1 by A&E Home Video on October 20, 2009. A season 6 DVD set has been announced for release August 24, 2010. Seasons 4-9 are sold exclusively at Target in 4 disc collections, with the exception of season 8, which is 5 discs, and season 9, which is 6 discs.


Top Chef Masters

Main article: Top Chef Masters
Top Chef Masters features established, award-winning chefs"?a contrast from Top Chef, which features chefs that who have been called relative "culinary amateurs". During its first two seasons, food journalist Kelly Choi hosted the show, and restaurant critic Gael Greene, culinary expert and Saveur Editor-in-Chief James Oseland, and food critic Jay Rayner served as judges.

The show debuted in 2009, with contestants including Rick Bayless, John Besh, Michael Chiarello, Wylie Dufresne, and Hubert Keller. As of 2012, four seasons have been produced and aired.

Top Chef: Just Desserts

Main article: Top Chef: Just Desserts
Top Chef: Just Desserts is a spin-off featuring pastry chefs. The show is hosted by Top Chef judge Gail Simmons; the head judge is Johnny Iuzzini, the award-winning pastry chef at Jean-Georges. Hubert Keller, owner of world-renowned restaurant Fleur de Lys and Top Chef Masters finalist, and Dannielle Kyrillos, "an entertaining expert and Editor-at-Large of DailyCandy" are regularly featured judges.

The show debuted on Bravo on September 15, 2010, after the seventh season finale of Top Chef.

Top Chef: Healthy Showdown

Top Chef: Healthy Showdown was a special webisode series in 2011 sponsored by Healthy Choice. It featured former Top Chef contestants Sara Nguyen (Top Chef: Miami), Ryan Scott (Top Chef: Chicago), Casey Thompson (Top Chef: Miami, Top Chef: All-Stars), and Tre Wilcox (Top Chef: Miami, Top Chef: All-Stars) competing in a series Quickfire Challenges to win $25,000 and inspire a Top Chef line of Healthy Choice entrées. It was hosted by Curtis Stone, and Ryan Scott won the competition.

Contestant Quickfire 1 Quickfire 2 Finale
Sara OUT

Life After Top Chef

Main article: Life After Top Chef
Life After Top Chef is a spin-off featuring former Top Chef contestants and focuses on various aspects of their lives, from managing and opening a restaurant to dealing with family dynamics and personal issues.

It premiered on October 3, 2012 and features Richard Blais, Jen Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn, and Fabio Viviani.

Top Chef Junior

Top Chef Junior is a tentatively-titled upcoming American reality competition show that will air on the cable television network Bravo. It is expected that teenage chefs will compete against each other in weekly challenges. Following the Top Chef format, they will be judged by a panel of professional chefs and other notables from the culinary world, and one or more contestants will be eliminated each week. The show is produced by Magical Elves Productions, the same company that created and produces Top Chef.

Bravo has ordered eight episodes; currently no air date has been set.

International adaptations

Top Chef Canada

Main article: Top Chef Canada
On April 21, 2010 Food Network Canada announced that they had come to an agreement with NBC Universal to produce a Canadian version of the program, called Top Chef Canada. It first aired April 11, 2011. The sixteen contestants compete for a grand prize of CDN$100,000 and a GE Monogram kitchen valued at $30,000.

Thea Andrews hosted Top Chef Canada's first season. Lisa Ray is the host for the second season. The head judge (the position held by Tom Colicchio on the original version) is Mark McEwan, chef and owner of several restaurants in Toronto and host of the Food Network Canada program The Heat with Mark McEwan. The "resident judge", as described by the network, is Shereen Arazm, a Toronto native and owner of several Los Angeles-area restaurants.

Other international adaptations

Country Name Host Judges Channel Year aired
Arab World Top Chef Siham Tueni
  • Siham Tueini
  • Joe Barza
  • Changing judge
LBC April 26, 2011 " July 19, 2011
Joumana Mrad
  • Joumana Mrad
  • Joe Barza
  • Changing judge
LBC Rotana Masriya

March 23, 2012
Top Chef Canada Thea Andrews (season 1)
Lisa Ray (season 2)
  • Mark McEwan
  • Shereen Arazm
Food Network Canada Season 1: April 11, 2011 " July 4, 2011
Season 2: March 12, 2012 " May 28, 2012
Top Chef Suomi Pipsa Hurmerinta
  • Pia Kämppi
  • Hans Välimäki
Sub January 26, 2011
Top Chef Sandrine Corman & Stéphane Rotenberg (season 1)
Agathe Lecaron & Stéphane Rotenberg (season 2)
Stéphane Rotenberg (season 3)
  • Cyril Lignac
  • Ghislaine Arabian
  • Thierry Marx
  • Jean-François Piège
  • Christian constant
February 22, 2010
Top Chef Nadia Boule
  • Elias Mamalakis
  • Christopher Peska
  • Trastelis Apostle
  • Herve Pronzato
ANT1 October 16, 2010
Top Chef Martijn Krabbé (season 1)
Robert Kranenborg & Julius Jaspers (season 2, 3 & 4)
  • Robert Kranenborg
  • Julius Jaspers
  • Changing judge
RTL 4 (season 1)
RTL 5 (season 2, 3 & 4)
October 13, 2009
Top Chef Silvia Alberto (season 1)
  • José Cordeiro
  • Susana Felicidade
  • Ricardo Costa
RTP 1 (season 1) August 18, 2012
Romania Top Chef Alina Pu?ca?
  • Joseph Hadad
  • Tudor Constantinescu
  • Nicolai Tand
Antena 1 November 5, 2012

Other media

Top Chef University

Top Chef University is a comprehensive online culinary school involving 12 courses and over 220 in-depth video-lessons. The program at takes participants through a structured program of the basics (knife skills, kitchen set-up, ingredients) through to advanced culinary techniques (sous vide, molecular gastronomy). Instructors at Top Chef University are some of the show's most successful and popular former "cheftestants". Enrollment costs US$199.95 for an annual membership and US$24.95 for a monthly membership.

Top Chef: The Game

Top Chef: The Game is a computer game released by Brighter Minds for the PC. 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."

Top Chef TV Dinners

In efforts to make certain dishes available to viewers who watch Top Chef but do not have time to try preparing those dishes themselves, Schwan's Home Service started offering Top Chef"?branded frozen meals in late 2009.

Top Chef: The Magazine

In June 2009, news broke that Top Chef is working with Food & Wine magazine on a Top Chef print magazine.

Top Chef: The Cookbook (series)

Top Chef: The Cookbook

On March 20, 2008, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Cookbook, with a foreword by Tom Colicchio.

Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook

On September 30, 2009, Chronicle Books released Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook, with a foreword by Padma Lakshmi.

How to Cook Like a Top Chef

On July 14, 2010, Chronicle Books released How to Cook Like a Top Chef, with a foreword by Rick Bayless.

Reception and awards


Top Chef was nominated at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming and Outstanding Reality-Competition Program for its second season. Top Chef won the award for Outstanding Editing in a Reality Series at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. 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.

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


Ratings of Top Chef premieres:

Season premiere # of Viewers Release Date +/- from previous
Season 9 premiere 1.6 Million November 2, 2011  " 6.6%
Season 8 premiere 1.7 Million December 1, 2010  " 5.8%
Season 7 premiere 1.8 Million June 16, 2010  " 30.7%
Season 6 premiere 2.6 Million August 19, 2009  " 3.7%
Season 5 premiere 2.7 Million November 12, 2008 + 19.4%
Season 4 premiere 2.26 Million March 12, 2008 + 11.8%
Season 3 premiere 2.02 Million June 13, 2007 + 8%

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Top Chef". Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions this article may contain.

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