‘Top Chef’ champ Kristen Kish replaces Padma Lakshmi as host

"Top Chef" winner Kristen Kish poses in front of a food truck wearing a backwards cap and a layered jacket
“Top Chef” winner Kristen Kish is replacing outgoing host Padma Lakshmi on the Bravo culinary competition series when it launches in Wisconsin for Season 21.
(Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press)

There’s a new host in the “Top Chef” kitchen and it’s a former cheftestant-turned-champion.

Season 10 winner Kristen Kish, who competed on the Emmy-winning Bravo series’ stint in Seattle in 2013, will replace former host Padma Lakshmi when Season 21 sets up shop in Wisconsin.

Kish will join head judge Tom Colicchio and longtime judge Gail Simmons at the deliberation table this season, which will be set in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis. — two growing culinary hubs known for blending tradition with innovation and utilizing farm-fresh ingredients, producers said Tuesday in a statement.

The longtime star of Bravo’s cooking competition explains what spurred her sudden exit, who she’d like to host next and the worst dishes of her run.

June 9, 2023

After Kish was asked to pack her knives and go early during her season, she sliced and diced her way back into the competition through the show’s accompanying “Last Chance Kitchen.” Back on the main show, she beat L.A. chef Brooke Williamson to earn the title of Top Chef. She has since returned to the series as a guest judge and meal attendee.


“‘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 a statement. “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.”

Kish, who was born in South Korea, grew up in the Midwest after being adopted by a family in Kentwood, Mich.. She went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago and spent 10 years in Boston working for several high-profile restaurants. After winning “Top Chef,” she hosted the Travel Channel and New York Times series “36 Hours” and released her first cookbook, “Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques,” in 2017.

Four "Top Chef" judges stand next to a table piled with cuts of beef.
“Top Chef’s” Tom Colicchio, left, Kristen Kish, Dawn Burrell and Padma Lakshmi.
(David Moir / Bravo)

In 2018, she launched her first restaurant, Arlo Grey, in Austin, Texas, where she serves up playful yet refined cuisine that draws inspiration from her classical training and nostalgic dishes from her upbringing and travel. She also co-stars in “Fast Foodies,” co-hosts “Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend,” and hosts and produces “Restaurants at the End of the World.”

“Kristen Kish represents everything that makes ‘Top Chef’ incredibly special,” added NBCUniversal Television and Streaming executive Ryan Flynn. “She’s an acclaimed chef and her experience as a cheftestant, winner and judge, alongside her culinary curiosity, makes Kristen the perfect host for the next chapter of ‘Top Chef’ as we take on a new region of the country we haven’t explored.”

There is no template for the Korean experience.

Oct. 1, 2020

A premiere date has not yet been announced for the upcoming season. Season 20 of “Top Chef,” which was set in London, premiered in March and aired its finale in June, when Lakshmi announced her departure from the reality competition show.

Lakshmi replaced short-lived Season 1 host Katie Lee (“The Kitchen”) in 2006 and filmed Season 20 knowing it could be her last. The model and cookbook author told the Los Angeles Times last month that the shooting demands of the series and food consumption were no longer sustainable for her.

Padma Lakshmi is leaving her “Top Chef” hosting duties after 19 seasons on the Bravo reality show. She wants to focus on “Taste the Nation” and other projects.

June 2, 2023


“Last year, my grandmother died. She practically raised me,” she said. “A week after, I had to go and film [my Hulu series] ‘Taste the Nation,’ which was honestly the best thing because it kept my mind occupied. ... We had two weeks away in August. And then, bang, I was on the set of ‘Top Chef’ from mid-August until October. So I was on the road from February to October. And I was exhausted. I just want to enjoy my life a little bit.

“That’s not to say I don’t want to do more projects. But I also don’t want to eat like I do on ‘Top Chef’ anymore. I’m the only one on the show that eats every single thing. I did it for a long time, and I don’t think that is sustainable for me.”