Top Chef Wisconsin Celebrates Season Premiere in Milwaukee

  • 0
  • March 28, 2024
Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party

Chefs in white coats. Knives ready. Kitchen stocked. Competition is set. Wisconsin is ready.

Wisconsin shined bright at the premiere party for the first episode of Bravo Top Chef Season 21 which aired on March 20. Held at Discovery World in Milwaukee along sparkling Lake Michigan, the red carpet was ready for the celebrity judges, chef contestants, food enthusiasts and local and regional officials.Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party red carpet

Walking the red carpet was head judge, Tom Colicchio, perennial judge, Gail Simmons and new host (and former Top Chef winner), Kristen Kish. Milwaukee’s own award-winning chef Paul Bartolotta and founder of The Bartolotta Restaurants, hosted the panel discussion before we collectively watched the season opener.

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party judges

Throughout the trailer and first episode, viewers were shown the beauty of Milwaukee’s landscape, architecture and restaurants. This included a stop at The Pfister Hotel where contestants got to know each other over cocktails at Blu on the hotel’s top floor and at restaurant, Lupi & Iris, where some serious cooking took place.

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party

We learned from executive producer and showrunner, Doneen Arquines, about all the locations they visited during their research and how they evaluated where the show would be shot. In the end, filming took place over the course of six weeks in the summer of 2023 in Milwaukee, Madison and Door County.

Tom Colicchio stated “Wherever there is a farm culture, there is a food culture.”

Top Chef Wisconsin Contestants

This season, fifteen chef contestants will compete against each other as they use local products in their recipes. The chefs immerse themselves in Wisconsin’s culinary space incorporating cranberries, cherries, cheese, sausage, beer and other ingredients to create the best dishes. The ultimate goal is to win that $250,000 grand prize!

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party four chefs

The “cheftestants” are:

  • Kaleena Bliss – Chicago
  • Kevin D’Andrea – Austin
  • Alisha Elenz – Chicago
  • Danny Garcia – New York City
  • Valentine Howell Jr. – Boston
  • Dan Jacobs – Milwaukee
  • Manny Barella Lopez – Denver
  • Savannah Miller – Durham, North Carolina
  • David Murphy – San Francisco
  • Kenny Nguyen – Athens, Georgia
  • Laura Ozyilmaz – San Francisco
  • Charly Pierre – New Orleans
  • Amanda Turner – Austin
  • Rasika Venkatesa – San Francisco
  • Michelle Wallace – Houston

The first elimination challenge was based on categories created by the judges. Broken down into three groups, the chefs were asked to make Soup (Kristen), Stuffed Pasta (Gail) or Roasted Chicken (Tom).  I won’t go into details as I don’t want to spoil the results. But what I recommend is listening carefully to each chef’s commentary as they are hustling in the kitchen to create their dish. Self-talk is incredibly important.

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party Chefs

You may have noticed one Wisconsin chef in the competition. Representing Milwaukee is chef and restaurant owner, Dan Jacobs of DanDan and EsterEv. In fact, he along with two other chefs were told by Tom, “If you keep cooking like this, you’re going to go far.”

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party Chef Dan Jacobs

By the way, there is a procedural change for this season: No immunities for quickfires.

Top Chef Wisconsin Guest Judges

Guest judges this week included James Beard award winners, chef Paul Bartolotta and Adam Siegel, former executive chef for The Bartolotta Restaurants and the owner and head chef for Lupi & Iris.

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party Chef Paul Bartolotta

Peggy Williams Smith, President and CEO of Visit Milwaukee, commented that the “growth in our community starts with a visit”.    

As a Wisconsin native, I can tell you that we have always had a strong food culture. Now, every Top Chef viewer and fan will know it too. It may have taken three years to bring the show to our state, but what a way to highlight the talent and food offerings found here. Come visit and see for yourself!

Tune in to new episodes on Wednesday evenings at 8:00 central time on Bravo. Stream the latest shows on the Peacock app.

For more photos and videos of the night’s event, visit here

Bravo Top Chef Premiere Party



  • Scw90 says:

    Learning about the show and cast must have been exciting. Your photos made me feel like I was there too. Liked seeing the chefs work together. Thanks for sharing.

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