Top Chef is an American reality television competition created by Magical Elves Productions which features aspiring amateur chefs who put their culinary skills to the test for the chance to earn various prizes and the title of "Top Chef".
Top Chef is a reality competition series celebrating the culinary arts with a fascinating window into the competitive, pressurized environment of world-class cookery and the restaurant business at the highest level.
Each episode of Top Chef, save for the finale, has two challenges.
In the Quickfire Challenge, each chef is asked to cook a dish with certain requirements (for example, using specific ingredients or to inspire 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.
In most cases, the winning chef(s) are granted immunity from the following Elimination Challenge, though they may also gain an additional reward (such as being team captains for a team challenge).
In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs have to prepare one or more dishes to meet the challenge requirements. Many of these are individual challenges and may require several courses, although some instances require teams to complete the challenge.
The chefs may have from a few hours to a few days to complete this challenge. If specified by the challenge, the chefs are given a limited budget to shop at a specific food store and place setting stores to complete their task.
Each of the four judges sample the food and rate the individuals or teams. At the end of the challenge, the chefs wait to be brought to the Judges' Table, where the four judges deliberate on the best and worst dishes.
The top individuals or teams are called in, and may be asked questions of their meals before they are notified of their placement.
One individual is named the winner of the challenge and may be awarded an additional prize by the guest judge. Then, the bottom individuals or teams are brought to the judges, and similar discussion of their courses is played out. From this group, one chef or team is determined to be the worst, and then one chef is asked to "pack your knives and go."
This is followed by a knife packing sequence for the eliminated chef, and a clip of his or her exit video, to close out the episode.
Midway through each season, the contestants participate in a "Restaurant Wars" (or similarly named) Elimination Challenge. They are split into two teams, which must each transform an empty room into a restaurant within a set time limit and budget, choosing the name, theme, decor, and menu.
In the final challenge, the two remaining chefs prepare a multiple course dinner with the help of previously eliminated chefs. The winning chef is selected based on several factors including food quality, their ability to lead their selected chefs, and general performance during the show.
- Editorial feature in Food & Wine Magazine
- Appearance at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado
- $100,000 - $200,000 prize money
- Suite of Sears Kenmore kitchen appliances (Seasons 1 and 2)
- Culinary tour of the French Alps (Seasons 3 and 4)
The first season was hosted by Katie Lee Joel with regular judges chef Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons of Food & Wine Magazine.
Joel was replaced as host by Padma Lakshmi from Season 2 onwards.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Ted Allen joined the cast as a regular judge for Season 3. He was replaced in Season 5 by Toby Young.
Eric Ripert replaced Toby Young in Season 7 and was himself replaced by Anthony Bourdain in Season 8. Bourdain left after one season and was replaced by Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson in Season 9. Wolfgang Puck joined as a judge in Season 10, but left after one season.
Season 01: Harold Dieterle
Season 02: Ilan Hall
Season 03: Hung Huynh
Season 04: Stephanie Izard
Season 05: Hosea Rosenberg
Season 06: Michael Voltaggio
Season 07: Kevin Sbraga
Season 08: Richard Blais
Season 09: Paul Qui
Season 10: Kristen Kish
The show moved from M-Net Series to M-Net Series Reality when the former channel became defunct in 2013.
The first nine seasons did not air on M-Net Series Reality or M-Net Series Zone.
The first two seasons aired on SABC3. After a five-year break the channel brought the show back for Season 8, having not broadcast Seasons 3-7.