Top Chef has crowned 17 winners since it debuted in March 2006, including Ilan Hall, Stephanie Izard, Joe Flamm and more. Now in its 18th cycle — filmed in Portland amid the COVID-19 pandemic — the Bravo hit shows no signs of slowing down.
However, Top Chef has changed and evolved over the years. As diehard fans may recall, the first season of the reality TV staple was different from the show viewers know and love today. For starters, while Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons served as judges during season 1, Padma Lakshmi was nowhere in sight. Instead, the inaugural season was hosted by Katie Lee.
Lakshmi began hosting in season 2 and holds the job to this day. Similarly, Colicchio and Simmons still serve as judges, though they have been joined by a rotating cast of other culinary pros over the years, such as Emeril Lagasse and the late Anthony Bourdain.
“There was a moment of us not really knowing where this would take us and thank goodness it resonated. We worked really hard to make something that everyone is proud of,” Simmons told Entertainment Tonight in April 2021 as she reflected on the past 15 years of the fast-paced cooking series.
As with most reality competition shows, some Top Chef winners have fared better than others since their time on the show. Harold Dieterle, for example, was the first person ever to be crowned Top Chef and later opened three eateries in New York City’s West Village after his victory.
After those restaurants eventually shuttered in 2014 and 2015, Dieterle then took a break from the business for a few years. He returned in October 2019 with the debut of Ten Hope, a Mediterranean eatery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where he is a consulting chef. He also runs HD Hospitality, a restaurant consulting business.
Izard, who walked away victorious at the end of Top Chef’s fourth season, used her talent and success on the Bravo hit to establish a group of restaurants in Chicago, including the wildly popular Girl & the Goat, Duck Duck Goat and more.
Aside from an impressive crop of winners, Top Chef has minted other cooking stars who didn’t place first in their respective seasons, but went on to make big waves in the culinary world nonetheless. Carla Hall, for example, failed to win during seasons 5 and 8 (the first all-stars cycle), but still nabbed a cohost position on The Chew in September 2011. She occupied that role until the show’s series finale in June 2018.
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