Top Chef Season 19: Release Date, Judges, And More - What We Know So Far

People are still buzzing about "Top Chef" Season 18, filmed in Portland in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. TV critics raved. FoodSided said it met the high bar "Top Chef" had already set for quality food television. The Ringer went a little further, saying "Top Chef: Portland" proved the show was trending in a good direction, "away from cutthroat competition" and toward cheftestant camaraderie. The Los Angeles Times was perhaps most effusive in its praise of Season 18. The newspaper noted the camaraderie, too, but also the greater cultural diversity among the contestants and the types of food used in the challenges. 

Finally, the show's cast and crew learned on July 13 that "Top Chef" was nominated for five Emmys, including a group nomination for Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons as Outstanding Host (via Bravo). Season 18 was a smashing success, even if the positive vibes were diminished by revelations that the winner, Gabe Erales, had been fired for violating his restaurant's harassment policy before the season aired (via The Washington Post).

Despite this emotional letdown, all signs point to an eventual Season 19 for "Top Chef." Bravo hasn't said yet whether the show will in fact be renewed for another season. We'll consider the most likely possibilities for a premiere date, judges, and location here.

Who will the judges be on Top Chef Season 19?

In the fickle world of food television with its constant turnover, "Top Chef" has been remarkably consistent with its cohosts-slash-judges. Tom Colicchio has been with the show since its inception, and Padma Lakshmi came on for Season 2 (via IndieWire). Gail Simmons has been a judge ever since the show started, too (via GailSimmons.com), only taking a break during Season 16 to have a child, as reported on Bravos' The Daily Dish blog. The recent announcement that the trio is up for an Emmy as Outstanding Host (via Bravo) only proves that Lakshmi, Colicchio, and Simmons remain at the top of their game. There's every reason to expect them all to come back as hosts for Season 19 – barring anyone taking new-parent leave again.

The intrigue will come in who gets selected as guest judges. In early seasons, "Top Chef" brought in superstar chefs such as Anthony Bourdain (via Los Angeles Times), but the rotation of "Top Chef" alumni as judges on Season 18 proved to be popular. The harassment claims against Season 18 winner Gabe Erales (via The Washington Post) pretty much torpedoed any chance he had of ever returning to the show. You should keep an eye out for another finalist, however. Shota Nakajima, the upbeat chef with the infectious laugh, was awarded the prize for Fan Favorite (via Parade).

When will Top Chef Season 19 be released?

Recently, Bravo has allowed more than a year to elapse between successive seasons of "Top Chef." Season 16 debuted in December 2018, per Bravo. Next came an all-star Season 17, which featured returning cheftestants and first aired in March 2020 (via Food & Wine). "Top Chef: Portland," the most recent season, premiered this year on April 1, according to TheWrap. Bravo announced the Season 18 premiere less than two months before the date, so we shouldn't expect to know anytime soon when we can start watching Season 19. But if the current pattern holds, we should expect "Top Chef" Season 19 to air sometime in mid-2022.

First, of course, the producers need to round up a new crop of high-quality U.S. chefs for the competition. After the controversy involving harassment of one of his female employees cast a shadow on Gabe Erales' Season 18 win (via The Washington Post), perhaps Bravo will try to heal the resulting wound in its fanbase by selecting an all-female cast of cheftestants for Season 19.

Just as important as any member of the "Top Chef" cast is the city that hosts the show. Portland served as a powerful backdrop for Season 18, given the pandemic restrictions and the protests there (via The Ringer). "Top Chef" has been to so many U.S. locations over its 18 seasons. Where might the show go next?

What city will host Top Chef Season 19?

"Top Chef" has crossed a lot of great locations off the map already over 18 seasons. The show has been to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and so many more quality food cities – even Charleston, South Carolina (via Top Chef Stats). We consulted some online lists of the best American food cities to try to determine the next likely destination for "Top Chef."

Based on rankings from The Washington Post and Far & Wide, the top candidate would be Philadelphia. Using a Rent.com study and a WalletHub survey, Far & Wide ranked Philadelphia 10th, which was highest among cities yet to appear on "Top Chef." Other potential new locations based on the Far & Wide list included Atlanta, Tampa, and Oakland.

The Washington Post's top 10 list of U.S. food cities was the studied opinion of just one person: food critic Tom Sietsema. The Post's list may be more subjective than Far & Wide's, but it brought us to the same conclusion. The only city to make the Post's top 10 that "Top Chef" hasn't used yet was Philadelphia. You might say, then, that the early odds favor the City of Brotherly Love.

Wherever "Top Chef" goes next, it'll need to be somewhere relatively COVID safe – unless the producers want a repeat of the stresses and limitations of Season 18. In any case, fans hope they pick a city soon and get to filming. We know we're already looking forward to "Top Chef" Season 19.