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“Top Chef” Season 16 Premiere Recap

Bravo’s “Top Chef” is one of my favorite reality television cooking competitions and it’s back for Season 16! That is craziness.  I’ve been an avid watcher of “Top Chef” and can safely say I’ve watched almost all 15 seasons. But if you’re not familiar with the show, let me break it down.

“Top Chef” Head Judge Tom Colicchio | Photo by: Michael Hickey/Bravo

The premise of the show is simple. 15 chefs compete in several challenges in each episode until there is only ONE Top Chef remaining. “Top Chef” is hosted by Padma Lakshmi, who is joined by head judge Tom Colicchio, as well as Graham Elliot, Nilou Motamed and Gail Simmons.

I watch a lot of food-related shows and some are downright bad. Especially the competition shows. Some lack credibility, some lack production value and some lack creativity. “Top Chef” is an all-around winner in all those areas. So if you’re looking for a food-related show that has some drama, yummy food and is fun, “Top Chef” is worth checking out. 

“Top Chef” visits a different culinary state each season. It’s one of the exciting and fun things about the show that keeps it fresh. Season 16 takes place in Kentucky. That opens up a whole lot of culinary exploration that I’m really excited for. Two words: FRIED CHICKEN. I really wish smell-o-vision existed. 

The Season 16 premiere opened with 15 all-new cheftestants we all have to get used to. Those include Caitlin Steininger, Eric Adjepong, Kelsey Barnard, Pablo Lamon, Justin Sutherland, Sara Bradley, Kevin Scharpf, Eddie Konrad, Natalie Maronski, Brandon Rosen, Nini Nguyen, Adrienne Wright, Brian Young, David Viana and Michelle Minori.

This is my least favorite part of watching “Top Chef” – the beginning. Throughout each season, I tend to get attached to the cast and have my favorites, so starting over again is bittersweet. It’s like cheating on your friends with new people.  

(l-r) Caitlin Steininger, Eric Adjepong, Kelsey Barnard, Pablo Lamon, Justin Sutherland, Sara Bradley, Kevin Scharpf, Eddie Konrad, Natalie Maronski, Brandon Rosen, Nini Nguyen, Adrienne Wright, Brian Young, David Viana, Michelle Minori |  Photo credit : Michael Hickey/Bravo

By this point in the series, the hosts and judges themselves have their own personality and are a very important part of the show. I’m going to be on a first-name basis with Padma, Tom, Graham, Nilou and Gail. Because we’ve become friends over 15 seasons. Or at least I like to think so. 

In “The Fastest 2 Minutes in Cooking” AKA the first episode of Season 16, the chefs competed in their first Quickfire challenge on the grounds of Churchill Downs. This Quickfire tested the good ol’ mise-en-place skills of the new cheftestants. They had two minutes to dice and chop and cook a bite for the Judges. They were divided into five teams of three which let us get a glimpse of personalities and team dynamics. Brandon Rosen, a personal chef, emerged as someone who thinks very highly of his skills and was bossing his team around. He definitely was giving off villain vibes in this episode. 

Some favorites that emerged in this episode were David Viana (Executive Chef/Partner at Heirloom Kitchen), Justin Sutherland (Executive Chef at Handsome Hog) and Nini Nguyen (Chef/Culinary Director at Cook Space).

David Viana | Photo by: Michael Hickey/Bravo

For their main challenge, the chefs had to put together 200 dishes for  a stakes-filled Kentucky Derby party. Churchill Downs’ own Chef David Danielson served as a guest judge. 

There were some good dishes and, of course, bad ones, including one that ultimately sent Caitlin Steininger (Executive Chef/Owner at CWC, The Restaurant) home packing. She served soggy biscuits. I mean, you just can’t do that in “Top Chef.” 

Caitlin Steininger | Photo by: Michael Hickey/Bravo

The first episode in this season proves promising with a yummy Kentucky-food-packed season. I’m looking forward to it! Also, don’t miss “Last Chance Kitchen.” It’s “Top Chef’s” post-elimination competition to get back into the game! 

“Top Chef” airs on Thursdays on Bravo at 9/8c! 

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