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Angela Henderson-Bentley: ‘Top Chef’ brings its best to the Bluegrass State

December 6, 2018 GMT

When it comes to reality competition shows, there are few better than Bravo’s Emmy Award-winning “Top Chef,” which is entering its 16th season.

Even if you have no clue what the chefs are making—which I do not—you can still get totally sucked into the challenges, the competition and the personalities. And this season is even more special for those of us in the Tri-State as the show gets a little closer to home with the competition moving to Kentucky.Louisville, Lexington, and Lake Cumberland will all be on display during this “Chef” season.

But seeing the best of Kentucky is not the only reason to get excited about the show, as after seeing the premiere, I believe “Chef” has found one of its most talented groups of contestants yet.

If you’ve never seen “Top Chef,” the competition features chefs from across the country vying for the title of Top Chef, $125,000 and other chef-related prizes. Each episode usually features a Quickfire Challenge, which forces the chefs to cook something in a very limited amount of time, and an Elimination Challenge, which determines which chef has to “pack their knives and go.” Padma Lakshmi is back as the host, along with head judge Tom Colicchio. Joining them this season at the judges table are some of the culinary world’s biggest stars, as well as rotating judges Graham Elliot (who appears in the premiere), Nilou Motamed, and Gail Simmons.

Challenges this year will take place at Keeneland, the Muhammad Ali Center, Maker’s Mark bourbon distillery, and Rupp Arena, with special guest University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari. Plus, the chefs will participate in a Quickfire inspired by KFC. And, a road trip to Nashville will take the chefs to the Grand Ole Opry stage.

Most of the premiere takes place at Churchill Downs where the chefs compete in two very clever Kentucky Derby-inspired challenges. Right from the get-go, the judges have trouble choosing winners because all the dishes are so good. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen Colicchio so excited, which tells you we’re in store for some good stuff this season. And just when you think you’ve got “Chef” all figured out, it throws some surprises at you, as the special season preview promises us a new twist on my favorite challenge, “Restaurant Wars.”

At one time in my life I was a “Chef” super fan, but I admit I’ve lost track of the show over the last few seasons. After watching the premiere, I’m not sure why I ever allowed that to happen. I look forward to getting back into the kitchen — even if I don’t have any idea what’s being made.

“Top Chef” premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec.6 with a special 75-minute episode on Bravo.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.