|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||12|
|No. of episodes||141|
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Magical Elves|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Original release||March 8, 2006– present|
Top Chef is an American reality competition television series which premiered on March 8, 2006, on Bravo. The show features chefs competing against each other in various 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.
Nine international adaptations of Top Chef have been produced, three of which, the Franco-Belgian Top Chef, Top Chef Canada and the Dutch Topchef, have had four seasons each. In the United States, the show has had two spin-offs: Top Chef: Masters, featuring established, award-winning chefs, and Top Chef: Just Desserts, featuring pastry chefs. Although one more spin-off had been planned in 2008 (Top Chef Junior, featuring contestants in their early teens), it has never aired as of 2014.
- 1 Show format
- 2 Seasons
- 3 Special episodes
- 4 DVD release
- 5 Spin-offs
- 6 International adaptations
- 7 Other media
- 8 Reception and awards
- 9 Broadcast and Streaming
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Top Chef is a reality show that uses a progressive elimination format. The start of each season starts with twelve to nineteen professional chefs selected through auditions. The chefs are brought to the season's host city which typically inspires themes throughout the season; the chefs live in a provided apartment or house during the course of the season, and normally do not have access to outside communication. Each episode, the chefs participate in a Quickfire and an Elimination challenges (described below); the winner of the Quickfire is typically granted immunity from elimination or a prize, or another benefit for the following Elimination, while the loser of the Elimination challenge is eliminated from the competition. This format continues until two or three chefs remain, where each is 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. Near the end of the season, when only four to five chefs remain, the show moves to another host city to finish out the competition.
In the Quickfire challenges, chefs 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 (such as chef's knives, wine or cash.) 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.
In the Elimination Challenge 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 judges (usually four) 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 team, after which similar discussion takes place. From this group, one chef is chosen for elimination, with the host asking the chef by saying "Please pack your 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.
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.
|Katie Lee Joel||♦|
- Names in bold denote the Host
|#||Location||Winner||Runner(s)-up||Fan Favorite||Finale Location||Air Dates|
|1||San Francisco, California||Harold Dieterle||Tiffani Faison||N/A||Las Vegas, Nevada||March 8 – May 24, 2006|
|2||Los Angeles, California||Ilan Hall||Marcel Vigneron||Sam Talbot||Waikoloa Village, Hawaii||October 18, 2006 – January 31, 2007|
|3||Miami, Florida||Hung Huynh||Dale Levitski||Casey Thompson||Casey Thompson||Aspen, Colorado||June 13 – October 13, 2007|
|4||Chicago, Illinois||Stephanie Izard||Lisa Fernandes||Richard Blais||Stephanie Izard||San Juan, Puerto Rico||March 12 – June 11, 2008|
|5||New York City, New York||Hosea Rosenberg||Stefan Richter||Carla Hall||Fabio Viviani||New Orleans, Louisiana||November 12, 2008 – March 4, 2009|
|6||Las Vegas, Nevada||Michael Voltaggio||Bryan Voltaggio||Kevin Gillespie||Kevin Gillespie||Napa, California||August 19 – December 16, 2009|
|7||Washington, D.C.||Kevin Sbraga||Ed Cotton||Angelo Sosa||Tiffany Derry||Singapore||June 16 – September 15, 2010|
|8||New York City, New York||Richard Blais||Mike Isabella||Carla Hall||The Bahamas||December 1, 2010 – April 6, 2011|
|9||San Antonio, Texas / Dallas, Texas / Austin, Texas||Paul Qui||Sarah Grueneberg||Chris Crary||Vancouver, British Columbia||November 2, 2011 – March 7, 2012|
|10||Seattle, Washington / Juneau, Alaska||Kristen Kish||Brooke Williamson||Sheldon Simeon||Los Angeles, California||November 7, 2012 – February 27, 2013|
|11||New Orleans, Louisiana||Nicholas Elmi||Nina Compton||Nina Compton||Maui, Hawaii||October 2, 2013 –February 5, 2014|
|12||Boston, Massachusetts||Mei Lin||Gregory Gourdet||N/A||San Miguel de Allende||October 15, 2014 –February 11, 2015|
|13||California||TBD||TBD||TBD||TBD||December 2, 2015 –|
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 and Stephen (season 1); Josie, Marcel, 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:
- Guest Judges: Eric Ripert, Elizabeth Falkner, Norman van Aken, Alan Wong, Alfred Portale
Top Chef Reunion Dinner
The Top Chef Reunion Dinner special, which aired November 4, 2009, was a dinner hosted by Fabio Viviani from season five, with the other guests being 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 and Stefan from season five.
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
Top Chef Masters features established, award-winning chefs—a contrast from Top Chef, which features chefs 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.
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 of 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|
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.
Top Chef Duels
Top Chef Duels brings contestants from past seasons of Top Chef and Top Chef Masters as they compete in three rounds of challenges. The winner of each challenge competed in the season finale, where one chef was given the title of the ultimate Top Chef. The series premiered in August 2014.
Top Chef Junior
Top Chef Junior was a spin-off series ordered in 2008 to air on Bravo for eight episodes, but as of 2014 has never been aired, nor is it known if any episodes were produced. It was expected to follow the Top Chef format of competition with teenage contestants.
There have been a number of local version of Top Chef around the world based on the original US format. Licensing of the format is handled by NBCUniversal.
|Arab World||Top Chef||Siham Tueni||
||LBC||April 26, 2011 – July 19, 2011|
||LBC||March 23, 2012|
|Canada(English)||Top Chef Canada||Thea Andrews (season 1)
Lisa Ray (season 2-4)
|Food Network Canada||Season 1: April 11, 2011 – July 4, 2011
Season 2: March 12, 2012 – May 28, 2012
Season 3: March 18, 2013 – June 10, 2013
Season 4: - May 2014
|Chile||Top Chef Chile||Julián Elfenbein||
||TVN||September 25, 2014|
|El Salvador||Top Chef El Salvador||Marcela Santamaria||
||TCS||September 2, 2015|
|Finland||Top Chef Suomi||Pipsa Hurmerinta||
||Sub||January 26, 2011|
|Top Chef||Sandrine Corman & Stéphane Rotenberg (season 1)
Agathe Lecaron & Stéphane Rotenberg (season 2)
Stéphane Rotenberg (season 3 & 4)
|February 22, 2010|
|Greece||Top Chef||Nadia Boule||
||ANT1||October 16, 2010|
|Indonesia||Top Chef Indonesia||Farah Quinn||
||SCTV||September 7, 2013|
|Poland||Top Chef Polska||Grzegorz Łapanowski||
|Polsat||September 11, 2013|
|Portugal||Top Chef||Silvia Alberto (season 1)||
||RTP 1 (season 1)||August 18, 2012|
|Romania||Top Chef||Alina Pușcaș||
||Antena 1||November 5, 2012|
|Antena 3||October 2, 2013 (Season 1)
September 8, 2014 (Season 2)
September 9, 2015 (Season 3)
||Kanal 5||March 13, 2014|
|United States (English)||Top Chef||Katie Lee Joel
||Bravo||March 6, 2006|
|Top Chef Masters||Kelly Choi
||June 10, 2009|
|Top Chef: Just Desserts||Gail Simmons||
||September 15, 2010|
|Top Chef Duels||Curtis Stone||
||August 6, 2014|
|United States (Spanish)||Top Chef Estrellas||Aylin Mujica||
||Telemundo||February 16, 2014|
|Vietnam (Vietnamese)||Top Chef Vietnam: Đầu bếp thượng đỉnh||Nguyễn Võ Lan Trinh||
||HTV||November 16, 2014|
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 www.topchefuniversity.com 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
Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook
How to Cook Like a Top Chef
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.
Ratings of Top Chef premieres:
|Season premiere||# of Viewers in Millions||Release Date||+/- from previous|
|Season 9 premiere||1.6||November 2, 2011||– 0%|
|Season 8 premiere||1.7||December 1, 2010||– 5.8%|
|Season 7 premiere||1.8||June 16, 2010||– 30.7%|
|Season 6 premiere||2.6||August 19, 2009||– 3.7%|
|Season 5 premiere||2.7||November 12, 2008||+ 19.4%|
|Season 4 premiere||2.26||March 12, 2008||+ 11.8%|
|Season 3 premiere||2.02||June 13, 2007||+ 8%|
Broadcast and Streaming
Top Chef is broadcast on Bravo in the United States. Seasons 1-12 of Top Chef are available to stream on Hulu (with a subscription). The most current season is available on BravoTV.com. Top Chef is also available from electronic sell-through platforms such as iTunes, Amazon Video, and Vudu.
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