12 chefs competed in Season 1. Names and hometowns below are from the Bravo website. Ages listed are at the time of the Top Chef: San Francisco taping in October–November, 2005. In the order eliminated:
^Note 1 : Andrea was brought back in Episode 3, after being eliminated once, when Cynthia chose to leave because her father was ill. ^Note 2 : Chefs worked in teams of two with two winners and one eliminated. ^Note 3 : From this point on, immunity is no longer awarded to the winner of a Quickfire Challenge. ^Note 4 : The judges felt nobody had distinguished themselves in the Elimination Challenge, so no winner was named. ^Note 5 : Episode 10 was a reunion episode with no challenges.
(WINNER) The chef won the season and was crowned Top Chef.
(RUNNER-UP) The chef was a runner-up for the season.
(WIN) The chef won that episode's Elimination Challenge.
(HIGH) The chef was selected as one of the top entries in the Elimination Challenge, but did not win.
(LOW) The chef was selected as one of the bottom entries in the Elimination Challenge, but was not eliminated.
(OUT) The chef lost that week's Elimination Challenge and was out of the competition.
(IN) The chef neither won nor lost that week's Elimination Challenge. They also were not up to be eliminated.
Each episode included two challenges. The Quickfire Challenge was a short, simple challenge with a varying reward each week. The Elimination Challenge was a more complex challenge that determined who was sent home. One or more guest judges joined the show each week to evaluate both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. Each week's elimination was announced in a segment called "Judges' Table."
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs must survive working the line at chef Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys restaurant for 30 minutes. The winner gets immunity from elimination.
Chefs that survived 30 minutes: Tiffani, Dave, and Lee Anne
WINNER: Lee Anne
Elimination Challenge: The chefs must prepare a signature dish to be served to the other Top Chef contestants.
WINNER: Harold (Steamed Thai Pink Snapper with Brussel Sprout Leaves and Chanterelle Mushrooms)
ELIMINATED: Ken (Pan Seared Alaskan Halibut w/ Soy Bean Green Onion Parsnip Puree and Heirloom tomato Compote)
Reason for Elimination: During the Quickfire, Ken antagonized the judges, particularly Keller. Keller asked Ken to taste the sauce he was preparing but instead of using a spoon, Ken dipped his finger in the sauce. Keller kicked him out of the kitchen but once the challenge was over, Ken continued bickering with Keller and Colicchio, firmly maintaining that tasting the sauce by dipping one's fingers in it was a normal and practical method all the while asking if Keller kept the sauce or threw it out. The judges and his fellow contestants viewed him as too cocky, especially when his Elimination Challenge dish failed to live up to his tough talk.
Gas Station Medley (Hot Coconut Water Infused with Paprika & Green Tea; Fine-Diced Charred Spam with Peanuts & Tarragon; Dehydrated Sweet Pea Crumbles; Vanilla Dumpling with Wilted Basil Leaf; Chili Mango Syrup
Japanese Seared Tuna Salad with Avocado, Sprouts, & Tamarind Vinaigrette
Lee Anne Wong
Char Sui Pork on Corn Sope with Avocado-Chile Cream & Pickled Asian Slaw
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs must identify a variety of ingredients by taste while blindfolded for five minutes. The winner gets immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: Working in teams of two, the chefs must create a dish fusing Latin American cuisine with one other ethnic cuisine. Dave and Tiffani had Moroccan, Andrea and Miguel had Indian, Lee Anne and Stephen had Chinese, and Harold and Lisa had Japanese. They then had to distribute the dish from a cart in the Mission District of San Francisco.
WINNERS: Dave and Tiffani (Moroccan Cubano Pork Sandwich)
ELIMINATED: Lisa (Japanese Seared Tuna Avocado Salad)
Guest Judge: Mike Yakura
Original Airdate: April 5, 2006
Following the Quickfire Challenge, the contestants held an impromptu junk food blindfold taste test to make light of the fact that most did not score highly in the challenge. Miguel won.
Dave's Roasted Chanterelle Soup with Thyme-Infused Cream
Carrot & Pear Salad with Honey-Mustard Dressing
Miguel's Smoked Salmon & Caviar on Latkes
Bacon-Wrapped Trevisano with Gorgonzola Brulee & Balsamic Reduction
Stephen's Chocolate Dessert Trio (Milk Chocolate Soup Infused with Black Tea; White Chocolate Semifreddo; Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake)
Oysters Three Way (Raw Oyster with Pomegranate Minette; Deep Fried Oyster; White Wine & Cream Poached Oyster)
Harold's Roasted Prime Beef with Swiss Chard & Fois Gras of Bruleed Onion Jams
Cumin & Oregano Dry-Rub Chicken Skewers with Adobo Honey Butter
Andrea's Poached John Dory
Antipasti Plate with Reduced Sherry Vinegar
Lee Anne's Fourme D'Ambert Cheese & Crackers & Beet Salad
Lee Anne Wong
Deep Fried Oyster with Reduced Lemon Garlic Cream
Tiffani's Fig Stuffed Gnocchi with Duck Confit in a Leek Puree & Seared Duck Breast with a Fig & Balsamic Jam
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef must create an appetizer in 20 minutes using $3 worth of ingredients, priced by the ounce.
WINNER: Stephen (Poached Baby Manila Clams over Grilled Sea Beans)
Elimination Challenge: The chefs have to create a seven-course dinner party for Ted Allen. Each chef got to choose the course he or she wanted, but then the producers changed everything: A random knife-block draw forced each chef to work on another chef's recipe.
WINNER: Lee Anne (Tiffani's Duck Breast with Fig Stuffed Gnocchi)
ELIMINATED: Andrea (Miguel's Smoked Scallops and Caviar on a Latke)
Grape Ape (Grilled Sourdough, Arugula, Vinaigrette; Duxelle, Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper, Black Forrest Ham, Pecorino Toscano & Grape Jam)
Team American Workshop
Deconstructed Falafel Sandwich
Lee Anne Wong
Salami & Fried Egg on Focaccia with Sunchokes
Quickfire Challenge: Each chef is asked to make a sandwich in 30 minutes using any of the available ingredients. The winning sandwich will be put on the menu at the San Francisco location of Tom Colicchio's 'Wichcraft restaurant.
From this point on, immunity is no longer awarded to the winner of a Quickfire Challenge.
Elimination Challenge: Working in two teams of three, the chefs must transform raw restaurant spaces, including the decor and the menu. Twenty-four hours later, diners arrive, choose which restaurant to dine in, and rate their experience.
Chorizo Duck Sausage Corndog with Camembert Cream Sauce
Rosemary & Thyme Seared Lamb Loin, Cauliflower Puree, Truffle & Fois Gras Stuffed Gnocchi with a Lamb Sauce
Seafood Nachos with Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa and Avocado Crema
Black Truffle and Cognac Cream Macaroni and Cheese & Prime Filet of Beef with Collared Greens and Radicchio
Lee Anne Wong
Japanese Seafood Hotdog with Spicy Mustard and Lotus Chips
Pistachio & Truffle-Crusted Lamb Loin with Butternut Squash & Black Truffle Risotto, Braised Treviso & Mushrooms, and a Cherry-Red Wine Demiglaze
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs are asked to recreate a classic junk food element into a gourmet dish in 45 minutes. The winner's performance counts in the overall assessment of the week's challenges, and also receives a bottle of Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. 
Elimination Challenge: All of the remaining chefs travel to Napa Valley's COPIA to prepare a dish incorporating expensive black Périgord truffles to be served with 2001 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Each chef's dish will be served to a group of top professional chefs from Northern California who are the guest judges.
WINNER: Dave (Truffle and Cognac Cream Macaroni and Cheese, Filet of Beef, Collard Greens and Radicchio)
ELIMINATED: Lee Anne (Pistachio Crusted Lamb Loin, Butternut Squash and Black Truffle Risotto with Red Wine Sauce)
Guest Judges: Greg Cole, Lissa Doumani, Philippe Jeanty, Douglas Keane, Keith Luce, James McDevitt, Cindy Pawlcyn, Victor Scargle, Hiro Sone, John Shafer
All twelve chefs are reunited with Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Katie Lee Joel in a discussion and behind-the-scenes review of their experiences on Top Chef. Though it was shown before the finale, the reunion was actually taped in late April 2006, after the finale took place. It is unknown how many of the chefs other than the winner, Harold, finalists Tiffani and Dave, and participants Miguel, Stephen and Lee Anne, knew the results of the finale at the time of the reunion taping.
Quince Paste & Goat Cheese Napoleon; Herbed Grissini with Prosciutto; Three Types of Potato Chips; Brie & Tomato Sandwich with Mustard
Blue Crab & Caviar Salad Tossed with Olive Oil, Blood Orange & Blueberries; Karabuto Pork Milanese with Morel Mushrooms; Kobe Rib Eye with Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar
Thai-Style Crab & Prawns Stack with Court Bouillon; Cinnamon-Nutmeg Rubbed Opah with Hazelnut Oil
Egg Rolls with Asian Ginger Sauce; Fried Shrimp; Salami Panini with a Sun Dried Tomato Roll; Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Spicy Penne with Kicked Up Marinara Sauce; Kobe Tenderloin with Balsamic, Fig & Grand Marnier Glaze
The three finalists, Dave, Harold and Tiffani, meet at the MGM Grand where they compete in a series of three Quickfire Challenges to determine which two chefs will remain to compete in a final challenge for the grand prize of Top Chef.
Quickfire/Elimination Challenges: For each challenge, the chefs must prepare hotel room service meals in 30 minutes for different customers: first a room of high rollers, including former competitors Lee Anne, Miguel and Stephen; then a table of poker players including Phil Hellmuth; and, finally, performers from Cirque du Soleil. Each group of patrons were to decide who was their favorite. Harold won with the "high rollers" and Cirque du Soleil performers, Dave won with the poker players, and Tiffani won none.
Although his Kobe beef dish was the overall favorite among the performers, Dave was disqualified for the round because he misunderstood the challenge and only served two dishes instead of the required three.
Final Challenge: The two finalists, Harold and Tiffani, each prepare a five course tasting meal to be served to a table of eight luminaries from the culinary world. Note: Tiffani chose to make two preparations of each course. Harold is assisted by former competitors Lee Anne and Miguel. Tiffani is assisted by former competitors Stephen and Dave. The final menus for each chef are:
1st Course: Seared Diver Scallop with Blood Orange and Fennel Salad