Bravo is bringing back some familiar faces when Season 14 of Top Chef premieres in December. With a handful of new chefs taking on the veterans, which fan favorites will be back in action this season?
According to Bravo TV, the network has officially released the names of all the contestants this year. Returning chefs include Sam Talbot, Amanda Baumgarten, Casey Thompson, Brooke Williamson, John Tesar, Sheldon Simeon, Katsuji Tanabe, and Shirley Chung.
For those that aren’t good at recognizing names, People released photos of the returning contestants, some of whom last appeared on the show in Season 2.
The newcomers, meanwhile, include the likes of Annie Pettry, Emily Hahn, BJ Smith, Gerald Sombright, Jamie Lynch, Silvia Barman, Sylva Senat, and Jim Smith. The judges this season feature a mixture of old and new faces, like Graham Elliot, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Padma Lakshmi.
Although the newbies certainly have their work cut out, both groups will face challenges along the way. Based on a new teaser for the upcoming season, the veterans and newcomers alike will deal with chaotic confrontations, insane food challenges, and the best meal Padma has ever tasted.
Of course, there is a good reason why things will get heated this year on Top Chef. S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water has put up $125,000 as the grand prize. Not to mention a spot in Food & Wine magazine, a place at the company’s Classic in Aspen, and the title of Top Chef.
At the same time, whoever doesn’t make the cut this year will have another chance to take home a prize on Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen. The series will kick off during the second week of Top Chef, allowing eliminated chefs the chance for a comeback.
According to Bravo TV, fans will also see a few culinary stars appear as guest judges this season. This includes the likes of William Guidara, Daniel Humm, Jeremiah Tower, Sean Brock, Dominique Ansel, Richard Blais, Michael Voltaggio, Chris Cosentino, Hugh Acheson, Carey Morey, BJ Denis, Mike Lata, Nilou Motamed, Alexander Smalls, John Currence, Michael Solomonov, and Michael Cimarusti.
The new season of Top Chef will see the contestants traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to compete against the best that southern cuisine can offer. Not only with the contestants prepare food for the barbecue legend Rodney Scott, but they will also battle it out with the Sudden Death Quickfires.
Chicago Tribune reported that Charleston is the perfect spot for this year’s competition. The area boasts a culinary lineup that centers on a coastal location with mild seasons. It also blends hundreds of years of African, Caribbean, and European cuisines, making it the ideal location for the show.
“It really reflects America much more than, say, California or New England,” Graham Elliot shared about the show’s new location. “You can’t help but feel the history of the place and taste it in the food.”
Elliot, who is based out of Chicago, is returning as a judge this year and spent some time in Charleston getting familiar with the local food. What did Elliot take away after spending weeks eating around Charleston?
“My favorite was Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe,” he revealed. “It has maybe 10 seats, just two or three people back there cooking food. There’s no fuss to it. It’s just dairy Southern food – fried egg, gravy biscuit, fried chicken on top of that. It’s very non-chefy.”
Elliot also loved eating at The Wreck, located in a suburb near Ravenel Bridge. “It’s right there on the water, and you can watch the shrimping boats coming back in – just a ton of character,” he said. “We did a challenge there.”
The camera crews also visited some famous restaurants in the area, including FIG and McCrady’s. Both places have taken home the James Beard Award and aren’t the kind of joints you can dine without a reservation.
“If you just walk in off the street, you won’t get a table,” one local warned, adding that the pureed potatoes were particularly delicious.
Speaking of locals, Emily Hahn is hoping that her Charleston roots will give her an advantage this season. The Top Chef alum has lived in the city for a decade and currently works in the kitchen of a restaurant named Warehouse.
“We really embrace our local purveyors,” she admitted. “Over the past 10 years, I’d say there’s more emphasis on the farmers than on fine dining.”
Of course, Hahn has some pretty stiff competition this year and she’ll probably need all the hometown favor she can get.
“At the end of the day, cooking is about taking something of lesser value and putting some love into it, which Lowcountry cuisine does better than most,” Elliot noted.
Fans can watch the action unfold when the new season of Top Chef premieres December 1 on Bravo, check out a preview below.
[Featured Image by Bravo]