Top Chef has crowned 16 winners since it debuted in March 2006, including Ilan Hall, Stephanie Izard, Joe Flamm and more. Now in its seventeenth cycle — an all-stars season set in Los Angeles — the Bravo hit shows no signs of slowing down.
However, Top Chef has changed and evolved over the years. As diehard fans may recall, the first season of the reality TV staple was different from the show viewers know and love today. For starters, while Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons served as judges during season 1, Padma Lakshmi was nowhere in sight. Instead, the inaugural season was hosted by Katie Lee.
Lakshmi began hosting in season 2, and holds the job to this day. Similarly, Colicchio and Simmons still serve as judges, though they have been joined by a rotating cast of other culinary pros over the years, such as Emeril Lagasse and the late Anthony Bourdain.
As with most reality competition shows, some Top Chef winners have faired better than others since their time on the show. Take Harold Dieterle, for example. The first person ever to be crowned Top Chef opened three eateries in New York City’s West Village after his victory, but one closed in 2014 and the others shuttered the following year.
Dieterle then took a break from the restaurant business for a few years, but returned in October 2019 with the debut of Ten Hope, a Mediterranean eatery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for which he is a consulting chef. He also currently runs HD Hospitality, a restaurant consulting business.
Then there are previous winners like Izard, who used her talent and success on the Bravo hit to establish a group of restaurants in Chicago, including the wildly popular Girl & the Goat, Duck Duck Goat and more.
Aside from an impressive crop of winners, Top Chef has minted other cooking stars who didn’t place first in their respective seasons, but went on to make big waves in the culinary world nonetheless. Carla Hall, for example, failed to win during seasons 5 and 8 (the first all-stars cycle), but still nabbed a cohost position on The Chew in September 2011. She occupied that role until the show’s series finale in June 2018.
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