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‘Top Chef’ Is Packing Its Knives and Going to London

Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons will descend on the U.K. for season 20

A man in a too-large white suit; a woman in a black dress; and a woman in a green dress
Top Chef judges Tom Colicchio; Padma Lakshmi; and Gail Simmons.
David Livingston/Getty Images

Top Chef season 20 will bring Bravo to Britain, as judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons pack their knives and head for London town.

Production for the new series — under the World All-Stars rubric — begins this month, according to Deadline. Rather than a brigade of new competitors, the all-stars iterations of Top Chef have historically brought together both successful and obnoxious contestants from previous series, putting them back through the mill. This series will cast its net wider, to feature 16 chefs from the 29 international versions of the show, and it’s already begun. The show’s Instagram account posted Stories of Lakshmi getting ready to meet the chefs by Tower Bridge, as well as inviting Londoners to come and dine on set.

For those unfamiliar with probably the most famous food TV show in the world, it encompasses two key rounds per episode: the quickfire, and the elimination. The latter culminates in “Judges Table,” at which Lakshmi, Colicchio, Simmons, and whichever famous chef they’ve drafted in to help stare down the contestants and tell them that they’ve either done really well or absolutely fucked it. As the series progresses, the failures get less egregious and more marginal, and Colicchio spends an awful lot of time reminding those at risk of elimination that, paraphrasing, “someone’s going home tonight ... For a very good dish.”

The show has also changed over its 20 seasons. The first eight-to-10 or so were a little lighter on culinary skill and heavier on aggro drama, with infighting among contestants and incredibly snarky confessionals. If seeking this kind of TV, head straight for season one, which is available in the U.K. on Jeff Bezos’s preferred streaming platform. With better cooking but also more media-conscious personalities, the show has since evolved into a vehicle for fame and fortune, the nature of which is increasingly is only incidental to — or entirely absent of — opening a restaurant.

It’s also important for new viewers to know that unlike U.K. favourites Masterchef, Great British Bake Off, and the like, Top Chef absolutely loves sponsorship money. Each host city pays a pretty penny for the show to come to town, and the show pays its own pretty penny to ensure it absolutely will not tell anyone how much if it can help it.

Quickfires are frequently sponsored entirely by brands, with chefs winning prizes, monetary or otherwise, in return for having to cook with certain ingredients. But that’s not all: the cash prize for the winner is always, always “furnished” by San Pellegrino, which Lakshmi will remind viewers of several times an episode, and the camera will routinely linger on a box of Morton’s kosher salt or Wholefoods logo for an excruciatingly long time in order to fulfil contractual obligations.

As such, it’s no surprise that U.K. Food Minister Victoria Prentis is absolutely loving this link-up:

“I’m pleased that Top Chef has chosen London for its first-ever season outside of the US. We’re rightly proud of our exceptional food and drink produced here in the UK. From Scottish salmon and Welsh lamb to Northern Irish beef and English sparkling wine, our food and drink are recognised at home and abroad for its great taste and high quality. As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, the passion, traditions, and expertise of our food and drink industry make the UK a fantastic choice for the culinary competition series.”

More soon on Top Chef season 20, including some wonderful recaps.