Churchill Downs
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‘Top Chef’ in Kentucky

“Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi dig into contestants’ food at Churchill Downs in the season premiere of the Bravo cooking competition, airing Dec. 6.  (Michael Hickey/Bravo Media)
Baked pimento cheese with Ritz crackers, cheesy chicken poppers and loaded potato wedges go down well with a bottle of Cheerwine at Royals Hot Chicken in Louisville. The casual eatery impressed Chicago chef and “Top Chef” judge Graham Elliot.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
“Top Chef” judge Graham Elliot said he’s a fan of Royals Hot Chicken in Louisville’s dynamic NuLu neighborhood.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
“Top Chef” judges Graham Elliot, left, of Chicago, and Tom Colicchio share a laugh during the season premiere of “Top Chef,” debuting Dec. 6 on Bravo.  (Michael Hickey/Bravo Media)
A woman checks out the bottles on display at the new Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center in the Frazier History Museum in Louisville.  (Frazier History Museum)
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center debuted in August 2018 in the Frazier History Museum in Louisville. It’s a good spot to plan a trip built around area distilleries and bourbon-focused restaurants and bars.  (Frazier History Museum)
In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel was a popular spot for dinner dances. Late at night, hungry patrons would leave the dance floor and head to the hotel’s restaurant, where chef Fred Schmidt served them a “Hot Brown,” an open-face turkey sandwich with bacon, tomatoes and mornay sauce. The culinary tradition lives on nearly a century later, and places throughout Louisville and beyond serve their own spin on the sandwich.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Steak tartare with charred beets, sunchoke chips, creme fraiche, dill and rye crackers at Decca, a Louisville restaurant run by former “Top Chef” contestant Annie Pettry.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Buttermilk ricotta toast with spring peas at Decca, a Louisville restaurant owned by former “Top Chef” contestant Annie Pettry.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Delicious bourbon balls are among the myriad offerings at Louisville-based Cellar Door Chocolates, which has an outpost in Butchertown Market, seen here, near downtown.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Paducah chef Sara Bradley, who spent a few years working in Chicago restaurants, competes in the season premiere of “Top Chef,” on a set built in a Louisville industrial park. Bradley is the only chef from Kentucky vying for the title this season.  (Michael Hickey/Bravo Media)
Ouita Michel opened Honeywood in Lexington in 2017. The affordably priced menu is full of comfort-food staples built around ingredients sourced from local producers.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Honeywood’s juicy burgers are made with beef patties from Kentucky’s Black Hawk Farms.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Soup beans and a hoecake can be had for $5 at Ouita Michel’s Honeywood restaurant in Lexington. Michel, the queen of Kentucky cuisine, will be making an appearance on this season of “Top Chef.”  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )
Lexington’s Distillery District is home to Crank & Boom Ice Cream Lounge, a fun spot to indulge in some frosty treats, like bourbon and honey ice cream.  (Lori Rackl/Chicago Tribune )