Padma Lakshmi spills the tea on Top Chef season 18 production details and the unique COVID-19 protocols, new format, and guests for the season.
Bravo’s Emmy-winning series Top Chef is returning to TV in April 2021 with season 18, and many fans are curious to learn how the producers pulled off filming the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Top Chef has now been a TV mainstay for 18 seasons, spawning international spin-offs, Top Chef Masters spin-offs, and multiple All-Stars seasons. The chefs that appear on Top Chef go on to win James Beard awards and become well-respected professionals in the world of cuisine.
Since season 2, Padma Lakshmi has been hosting Top Chef and bringing a worldly sense of food to the series, which largely benefits even the more skilled contestants on the show. As the face of Top Chef, Padma has always made it clear where she stands on whether she enjoys a dish or not, and even has a new cookbook called Tangy, Tart, Hot, and Sweet. In addition to Top Chef, Padma is the executive producer and host of a new Hulu show called Taste the Nation.
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Now, Padma is giving fans an inside look into the production details behind the upcoming season of Top Chef, which was filmed in Portland. On a recent podcast interview with Deadline, Padma revealed that production took place at the height of the pandemic, so there had to be specific safety protocols for the season. Guest judges were brought in out of a jury of alumni instead of celebrity chefs. That way, they could keep all the guest judges in a bubble for the entirety of filming because, according to Padma, “some people don’t want to quarantine for two whole weeks just to come on for half a day for a Quickfire.”
This created a great reunion of fan-favorite Top Chef alums living together and judging the new cast on season 18. The jury includes notable chefs like Melissa King, Gregory Gourdet, Richard Blais, and Kristen Kish. Of course, head judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons returned. The cast also went through regular testing and had to adhere to social distancing. Padma also clued fans into the fact that the judges’ table is now larger than ever so that all the judges could be safely separated from each other. Alas, the worst part of the safety protocols was when the cast had to order groceries, “They had to order their groceries. And sometimes they’d be like ‘I would never pick this tomato, this is a terrible tomato,’ but that’s what happens when we order online.”
Still, the cast and crew of Top Chef Portland did their absolute best, and the result is an exciting season with a new format. Guest judges will get to know the contestants more thoroughly than ever before, and most importantly, they will understand what the contestants feel as they have all been in their shoes. The winners are always iconic, but the fans rarely agree on who should or shouldn’t win the title. The premiere of season 18 was on April 1, 2021, so fans have a lot to look forward to as Top Chef Portland continues on Bravo.
Next: Top Chef: The 10 Best Chefs, Ranked By Likability
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