In June, longtime Top Chef host
Padma Lakshmi announced plans to walk away from the show after 20 seasons. Soon after, the network announced that her highly-anticipated replacement would be none other than former Top Chef contestant 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 a statement. “It feels like coming home.”
And while Kish herself may be a newbie to the hosting role, she’s hardly an amateur in the kitchen. Here’s everything you need to know about the chef-slash-television personality before she officially steps into Lakshmi’s hosting shoes for season 21 of Top Chef.
How did Kristen Kish get her start in the culinary world?
Kish began her career as a student at Le Cordon Bleu College in Chicago. After graduating with her A.A. in culinary arts, she moved to Boston and began working as an instructor at the demonstration kitchen, Stir, The New York Times reports. Kish spent nearly 10 years working at restaurants before landing a gig as chef de cuisine at Barbara Lynch’s famed French spot, Menton.
It was Lynch who prodded Kish to compete on Top Chef. She went on to compete on the series and win season 10, and later reappeared as a guest judge.
What other shows has Kristen Kish hosted?
Kish’s resume includes several TV hosting gigs, including the Travel Channel’s 36 Hours, TruTV’s Fast Foodies, Netflix’s Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend, and National Geographic’s Restaurant’s at the End of the World.
What else has she accomplished in the culinary world?
Kish also released a cookbook in 2017, and followed it up with her first restaurant, Arlo Grey, which opened in Austin’s Line Hotel in 2018.
“Part of me was terrified,” Kish told Eater of opening Arlo Grey. “I was like, Oh my god, breakfast, lunch, dinner, room service? This is not my wheelhouse.” She later admitted that despite her own fears around the venture, it felt like the “appropriate challenge.”
“I was appropriately scared,” she said. “That’s why I want to do it. I jumped and was like, ‘F*ck it, let’s do it. It’s time.'”
How does the network feel about Kish’s new role?
NBCUniversal Senior Vice President Ryan Flynn called Kish “the perfect host for the next chapter of Top Chef” and said the network is looking veto “take on a new region of the country” it hasn’t explored.
Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio similarly praised Kish. “She is an excellent chef, brings a world class perspective and most importantly, having been a past contestant and judge, she knows what it takes to win,” he wrote. Fellow judge Gail Simmons added, “Psyched beyond words to have her pull up that seat at Judges’ Table.”
What has Kristen Kish said about the upcoming season?
Though Kish admitted that she didn’t “really got a lot of advice” prior to competing on Top Chef herself, she does have a nugget of wisdom to share with upcoming contestants: “You really have to have a firm grasp of what it is you want to convey, because if you try to be something or be somebody you’re not, you’re gonna walk away from that experience, like ‘what was I thinking?'” she told Eater. “You don’t want to have that moment, so do what you do and do it well.”