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'Top Chef' Is Back for Season 21 — Here's Your First Look at the Contestants

"Top Chef" is back for an all-new season, bringing us new chefs, new judges, and a new location to love.

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Bravo’s hit show is returning to the air for its 21st season on Wednesday, March 20, this time bringing chefs to Wisconsin to show off everything the Midwest has to offer. And truly, it’s a season as representative of Wisconsin as it gets. 

“The cheftestants must bring their A-game and inspiration to Wisconsin this season as they go head-to-head in a slew of challenges honoring the state’s traditions, local staples, and fresh produce,” Bravo shared in a press release with Food & Wine. “From a cutthroat cheese festival featuring some of Wisconsin’s Award-winning cheesemakers to showcasing the versatility of Door County cherries and Wisconsin-grown cranberries, there’s no room for error as the judges narrow down the competitors each week to find this season’s winner.”

Related: Our Favorite Recipes From ‘Top Chef’ Host Kristen Kish

The cheftestants that make it through to the finale will then hop on a flight to board a Holland America cruise ship for an epic high-seas finale, which includes a surprise visit  from Holland America’s Fresh Fish Program Ambassador, chef Masaharu Morimoto, before having to prepare an eight-course fish-tasting menu for the penultimate episode (no pressure, right?). And, for the final meal, the remaining chefs are tasked with the “best four-course meal of their lives” to take home the $250,000, along with our favorite prize, a feature in Food & Wine and an appearance at the 41st annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

And the biggest news of the year is, of course, the all-new host, season 10’s winning chef, Kristen Kish. "Top Chef is where I started my journey — first as a competing chef, then a guest judge, and now as host, I have the honor of helping to continue to build this brand," Kish said in her hosting gig announcement in 2024. "I'm thrilled to sit alongside Gail and Tom as we get to know new incredible chefs and see what they cook up. It feels like coming home." 

Keep scrolling to watch the trailer for the upcoming season and to learn more about all the contestants vying for the prize via their bios provided by Bravo, before tuning into the show every Wednesday at 9.

Kaleena Bliss, Chicago

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Growing up in Washington State, Kaleena Bliss developed a love for the Pacific Northwest’s abundant ingredients at an early age. She started cooking at 16 and earned her bachelor’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. With more than 18 years of experience, Kaleena cultivated a successful career in renowned restaurants across Portland, Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region. She was named a Puget Sound Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree in 2022 and has won several national broadcast cooking competitions. Kaleena relocated to Chicago in 2023, where she currently serves as the executive chef at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, overseeing the acclaimed restaurant Cindy’s Rooftop and the hotel’s extensive banquet and events program. Her menus showcase inspiration from her PNW roots, which encompass seasonality, locality, seafood, wild food, and foraged ingredients. Beyond her culinary pursuits, she enjoys backpacking and foraging, and advocates for raising awareness about mental wellness in the industry and beyond.

Kévin D’Andrea, Austin

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

A finalist on “Top Chef France” in 2015, Kévin D’Andrea started cooking at a young age and had the privilege of training under the guidance of the legendary Michelin Star chef Alain Llorca at Hôtel Belles Rives in the picturesque French Riviera. Subsequently, he worked alongside one of the world’s most renowned chefs, chef Alain Ducasse, at Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris. He also honed his skills at the prestigious Michelin three-star restaurant Le Meurice alongside the accomplished Yannick Alléno. Later, he ventured to London, where he contributed his expertise to the iconic restaurant Bob Bob Ricard before establishing his own restaurant, Mensae, in Paris. Driven to pursue the American dream, he left his career in France for Houston, where he served as the executive chef for La Villa. During this time, he developed a fondness for Texas, which led him to move to Austin for Foliepop, where he is currently the executive chef. Initially envisioned as a French food street cafe, it has since evolved into a thriving business-to-business kitchen that provides elegant French pastries to top-tier venues. Knowing what it takes to reach the top in the competition series, Kevin is looking forward to competing on “Top Chef’ and plans to showcase his French techniques with influences he’s picked up from traveling the world.

Alisha Elenz, Chicago

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Alisha Elenz is a two-time James Beard-nominated chef and the 2019 recipient of the Jean Banchet for Rising Chef of the Year. Using her background in preparing Spanish cuisine, Alisha specializes in Mediterranean flavors. She has been working in the restaurant industry for 12 years and quickly rose up in the ranks at a young age by becoming an executive chef at 23. Nowadays, she’s running her own private chef and events company, “Whisk the Night Away,” where she creates a full restaurant experience in the comfort of your own space. She’s known for using a simple approach to creating complex flavors that you wouldn’t normally expect to see together.

Danny Garcia, New York City

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

A proud Brooklyn native, Danny Garcia grew up in a large, tight-knit Dominican and Puerto Rican family where food was the focus of every family gathering. He secured a scholarship to Johnson & Wales in Providence, R.I., and after graduation, took a full-time position at the NoMad, where he rose the ranks to sous chef. In 2016, Danny took first prize at the Ment’or Young Chef competition, which afforded him the opportunity to stage with Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or, a world chef championship in Lyon. The next year Danny moved to Napa to join the team at Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry and rejoined Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or. In 2019, Danny returned to New York to work alongside his longtime mentor James Kent in opening Crown Shy and Saga restaurants as executive sous chef. In 2021, he relocated to Hong Kong to help reopen the highly acclaimed Belon as chef de cuisine. Recently, Danny returned to New York to reunite with James Kent’s team at Saga Hospitality Group and is leading the kitchen at a new restaurant scheduled to open in late 2024.

Valentine Howell Jr., Boston

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born and raised in Boston, Valentine Howell JR. was drawn to the magic of hospitality and food as far back as he can remember. Officially starting his culinary education at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and graduating from Newbury College with a B.S. in hotel, restaurant and hospitality management, he continues to be inspired by food, art, and his love for culture, travel, and the people around him. With over two decades of experience working behind the line in some of Boston’s most notable kitchens, Valentine’s path has led to experiences working alongside culinary royalty such as Lydia Shire, shaping how he approaches cooking and expanding his culinary acumen. A James Beard Award finalist for Best Chef in the Northeast in 2023, every kitchen has imparted diverse knowledge to Valentine’s repertoire. Highlighting local produce and other various cultural and local ingredients, Valentine is currently focusing on hosting pop-ups to promote his international food concept, Black Cat Eatery, which consists of tacos, shared plates of Caribbean, Afro-Latin, and Latin street foods, and dishes with his creative take. He has also appeared on shows such as “A Moveable Feast” on PBS.

Dan Jacobs, Milwaukee

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born and raised in Chicago, Dan Jacobs moved to Milwaukee with his wife, Kate, after looking for a change of scenery. Dan is the head chef and co-owner of acclaimed Milwaukee restaurants EsterEv, a globally inspired tasting menu concept, and DanDan, a modern Chinese-American concept with Midwest sensibility. Dan and his business partner, Dan Van Rite, are 6-time James Beard Best Chef Midwest Semi-Finalists who extend their work far past the kitchen. Jacobs is a board member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), was instrumental in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund’s $28.6B raise in 2021 and was one of four to speak to President Joe Biden on behalf of the independent restauranteurs. The same year Dan opened his restaurants, he was diagnosed with Kennedy’s Disease, a genetic neuromuscular ailment commonly mistaken for ALS. With a disease that often makes simple tasks like walking upstairs or chopping an onion feel like a massive undertaking, he’s proud to run two standout restaurants and raise money for Kennedy’s Disease awareness.

Manny Barella Lopez, Denver

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, Manny (Manuel) Barella took a leap to leave law school and enrolled in a culinary program to pursue his true passion. His natural talent and drive led him on a journey that landed him in kitchens, including the luxury Sea Island Resort in Georgia, five-star Napa Valley resort Calistoga Ranch and Napa’s Michelin-rated Solage Resort. A taste for adventure drew him to Boulder, Colorado, where he earned a position at James Beard award-winning Frasca Food & Wine as chef de partie before taking on the position of sous chef at Uchi in Denver and eventually executive chef/oartner at Bellota. In 2022, he was named a James Beard semifinalist in the Emerging Chef category. Demonstrating his commitment to helping others, Manny serves as the President of the Hispanic Chefs Association in Colorado, dedicating his time as an ambassador of authentic Mexican cuisine and donating his talents to organizations focused on fostering culinary talent in the community. Manny is currently the Culinary Director at Camp Pickle and Jaguar Bolera, both highly anticipated “eatertainment” concepts that will feature his wood-fired dishes inspired by Mexican and southern cuisines opening in 2024 in Raleigh and Atlanta, followed by Denver and Tulsa in 2025.

Savannah Miller, Durham, NC

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

A North Carolina native, Savannah Miller started working in hospitality during her teenage years and quickly fell in love with the fast-paced environment. She decided to pursue a professional career in cooking and, after attending the New England Culinary Institute, was quickly fast-tracked into an internship on the opening team at Matthew Jennings’ Boston restaurant Townsman. After almost four years of focusing on New England cuisine, Savannah decided to continue her career closer to home and joined chef Michael Lee to help open M Tempura in Durham as his chef de cuisine in 2018. During this time, she spent four years running the kitchen for a 30-seat tasting menu restaurant and learning all about Japanese and Korean cuisine. She pulls inspiration from what is locally available and believes deeply in supporting the ecosystem of purveyors in the surrounding area. Outside of being in the restaurant, Savannah enjoys spending time at her home her her friends, fiancé, and their two pets.

David Murphy, San Francisco

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born and raised in Texas, David Murphy grew to love cooking from a very young age through late night cooking with his uncle and recreating dishes from morning cooking shows. After completing his culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu, David left the Lone Star State for San Francisco, where he was part of the team that secured a Michelin star for Madera. Later, he was a sous chef at Uchi in Austin, and executive chef at Whitechapel in San Francisco. In 2022, David opened Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine, a climate change solutions restaurant and bar in San Francisco, where he is the chef and owner. He designed and constructed the space with his partner Kayla Abe. Named on best new restaurant lists from Esquire, Bon Appetit, and New York Times, Shuggie’s serves up sexy share plates and grandma-style pizzas, highlighting upcycled ingredients, byproducts, and offcuts to help educate on the impact of food waste on our climate crisis. David resides in San Francisco with his partner and their slightly famous bulldog Beef.

Kenny Nguyen, Athens, GA

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

A first-generation American born in Philadelphia, chef Kenny Nguyen learned the art of cooking from his family, most of all his Vietnamese grandmother. After taking classes at the Art Institute of Atlanta, he worked his way through various kitchens and eventually became the sous chef at Sea Bear Oyster Bar. Kenny then headed to New York to hone his craft, where he worked as a fishmonger at Greenpoint Fish & Lobster and landed a job at Jen Pelka’s the Riddler. The pandemic brought him back to Georgia where he worked at the Ritz Carlton in Lake Oconee before accepting an executive chef position at the Expat in Athens. His cooking style focuses on playing with food and flavor combinations, but he leans on his Vietnamese upbringing to create new dishes. Kenny was named Rising Star of Georgia by Restaurant Informer magazine in 2021. Currently, he’s focused on opening his own Vietnamese restaurant in Athens, Pretty Boy, which is a tribute to his grandmother and the English translation for her nickname for him.

Laura Ozyilmaz, San Francisco

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Born and raised in Mexico, Laura Ozyilmaz was enchanted by the culinary world at an early age. She pursued her culinary education at the Centro Culinario Ambrosía in Mexico City, New York’s Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and the Basque Culinary Center in Spain, during which time she worked at the prestigious Mugaritz in San Sebastian. Laura sharpened her skills at the Michelin-rated restaurants Eleven Madison Park and Café Boulud in New York and Saison in San Francisco. Upon moving to San Francisco, she launched a successful pop-up with her husband, Sayat, Istanbul Modern SF. She was then a co-owner and co-executive chef, alongside Sayat at Noosh. Laura currently owns Dalida, which opened in 2023 in The Presidio of San Francisco, which represents elevated Middle Eastern cuisine with bold flavors and dynamic dishes. Dalida was named Best New Restaurant in America by Esquire, Best New Restaurant by Eater SF, and was recently added to the Michelin Guide. Laura is proud to be a successful female chef and immigrant, and prides herself on being a perfectionist. Laura was recognized as Chef Game Changer by StarChefs and Rising Star by the San Francisco Chronicle. She was announced as a 2024 James Beard Best Chef Semifinalist for California.

Charly Pierre, New Orleans

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Two-time James Beard nominee Charly Pierre has aspired to be a chef as far back as he can remember. Born and raised in Cambridge in a Haitian household with a father as a professional chef, Charly began working in the restaurant industry at 15. While attending culinary school at Southern New Hampshire University, he worked his way through fine-dining restaurants in hopes of saving enough money to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant. In 2015, he moved to New Orleans where he and his business partner, Eva Churches, opened their Haitian-inspired restaurant Fritai in 2016, securing various best restaurant accolades, including Zagat’s 30 Under 30 and Eater NOLA’s 2022 Restaurant of the Year. Passionate about his community and the welfare and treatment of his employees, he values training and providing his employees with endless opportunities. When he isn’t busy in the kitchen, you can find Charly in the garage working on his latest car project.

Amanda Turner, Austin

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Amanda Turner has spent over a decade cooking and creating in the Austin culinary community, working for many esteemed chefs, including Tyson Cole from Uchi as well as “Top Chef” season nine winner Paul Qui. She’s also made her mark in restaurants where she has done a bit of everything, including Japanese cuisine, pasta, pastry, whole animal butchery and more. In 2017, Amanda received the Mentor BKB grant for continuing education, allowing her to cook in Japan for four months at DEN and Ryugin. She currently serves as the chef de cuisine at Olamaie and has received many accolades during her time, including being named a James Beard semifinalist for Emerging Chef in 2022, StarChefs’ Rising Star in 2023 and CultureMap’s Tastemaker Chef of the Year in 2023 as well. At Olamaie, she integrates her many culinary influences and skills while seeking to reclaim the concept of fusion. She continues to showcase the vibrance and depths of Austin’s flora and fauna and the versatility of modern Southern Cuisine through the breadth of the African diaspora.

Rasika Venkatesa, San Francisco

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Chef Rasika Venkatesa’s fondest memories are growing up in Chennai, India, and cooking with her biggest inspiration, her grandmother. She earned her bachelor’s degree in hotel management from Manipal University in India and moved to the United States to work at Thomas Keller’s three-star Michelin restaurant, the French Laundry. In 2019, Rasika joined the team at Mourad in San Francisco, a one-star Michelin New Moroccan restaurant. She started as a station cook and worked her way up to chef de cuisine under the guidance of world-renowned chef Mourad Lahlou. In 2022, she won StarChefs’ Rising Star Award in the San Francisco/Oakland area, collaborated with chefs nationwide in various culinary events. Chef Rasika is now focused on her concept, which aims to reinvent Tamil cuisine. She’s currently traveling across Tamil Nadu to learn from the local communities to grow and evolve as a chef in the next chapter of her culinary journey.

Michelle Wallace, Houston

<p>Bravo/ Stephanie Diani</p>

Bravo/ Stephanie Diani

Michelle Wallace fell in love with food and cooking for her friends while studying healthcare administration at Texas Southern University. Her passion turned into a job years later when her cousin, a player on the NFL’s Houston Texans, started paying her to make meals for him and his teammates, leading her to pivot and enroll in culinary school. After graduating from the Art Institute of Houston, Michelle worked in the famed fine-dining kitchen of Pêche before moving onto a high-end catering company that led to an opportunity with James Beard-nominated veteran Houston pitmaster Greg Gatlin. After spending six years learning the ways of a pitmaster and honing her skills as the executive chef at Gatlin’s BBQ, chef Michelle was nominated for CultureMap Houston’s Rising Star Chef in 2021. After being chosen as part of James Beard’s cohort TasteTwenty for their culinary series “Taste America,” Michelle started a new endeavor and launched B’tween Sandwich Co. in Houston in 2023. Beginning with local pop-up events around the city, B’tween Sandwich Co. blends various culinary techniques while specializing in comfort food, smoked meats and traditional fare for creative sandwich lovers.

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