Top Chef Season 21 premiere: Will big changes impact the final outcome?

Top Chef Season 21 premiere
Top Chef Season 21 premiere / Bravo

The Top Chef Season 21 premiere was full of big changes. While Kristen Kish has taken over hosting and judging duties, additional twists and turns will impact this season. Wisconsin might be full of Midwest nice, but these cheftestants better bring their best to each and every challenge.

Over the past 20 seasons, Top Chef has produced some of the most engaging food television. While many of the chefs who competed in the show have gone onto become household names, it is the caliber of the cheftestants and their willingness to put it all on the line that has food fanatics across all genres intently watching every challenge.

While many people might expect some Wisconsin cliches to be showcased throughout the season, Top Chef is always changing the conversation. Even though the iconic phrase, pack your knives and go, will never be replaced, switching up some of the parameters can be as exciting as a chef from Last Chance Kitching winning the title.

Given that Top Chef Season 21 is set in Wisconsin, everyone is waiting for the cheese, brats, and beer. Even though that statement might be simplistic, there is more to Wisconsin than these few ingredients. Luckily, there are many episodes across the season to showcase stories that flavor Milwaukee and Madison.  

Even before the cheftestants get to participate in their first challenge, a big change was revealed. The winning a Quickfire will not earn a chef immunity. While there are over $100,000 prizes to be won in a Quickfire, safety is not one of them.

But, winning the Elimination Challenge will earn a chef immunity in the following Elimination Challenge. That twist is potentially a game changer, especially if there is a team challenge during the season. Whether or not this new element changes the trajectory of Top Chef Season 21 remains to be seen.

For the Top Chef Season 21 premiere, the first challenge, an Elimination Challenge, required the chefs to complete a particular style of dish. After choosing knives, each of the judges assigned the randomly selected groups with a dish. Each dish was chosen because the judges believed that it was a challenge that would push the cheftestants.

Top Chef Season 21 episode 1
Top Chef Season 21 episode 1 / Bravo

The three categories were: Gail – stuffed pasta, Kristin – soup, and Tom – whole roasted chicken. Given the limited timeframe, all three dishes were difficult. If the challenges were ranked in order of difficulty, Tom’s whole roasted chicken was definitely the hardest. It might seem like an easy dish but getting the whole bird cooked evenly is not.

Overall, the cheftestants did well. While some mistakes were quite obvious, the highs were more revealing. For example, Gail’s stuffed pasta challenge saw Michelle, who normally does not make pasta, create a near perfect dish. From the thin pasta to the delicate flavor in the corn chowder, it was both well composed in flavor and execution. It was a clear winner.

In addition, the soup challenge had one dish that was able to create that depth of flavor and the ultimate comfort food bite. Manny’s posole was everything that a person would want from a satisfying soup.

Lastly, Danny earned high praise for his whole roasted chicken. While he might have struggled during the cook, the final product was perfect in its simplicity. A well-cooked bird with a scrumptious sauce shows that he is a chef who knows how to cook.

Winning the first Elimination Challenge on the Top Chef Season 21 premiere was Manny. It seems that he will be around till at least episode 3.

Top Chef Season 21 episode 1
Top Chef Season 21 episode 1 / Bravo

Unfortunately, the bottom dishes had some unfortunate misses. Amanda’s soup had a way too salty gremolada. During the cook, she knew that the flavor was off, yet she still put it on the plate. She needs to learn to edit and avoid plating components that negatively impact the dish.

David’s filled gnocchi was awful. It was not because of his use of offal, but the dish did not make sense. The sauce did not go with the pasta. Even if the dish was conceptional, no one understood the idea, nor wanted to eat it.

Lastly, Teddy was a bottom chef because he did not complete the chicken challenge. By leaving his dark meat off the plate, he seemed to be automatically in the bottom.

Before the judges decided who would be the first Top Chef Season 21 to pack their knives and go, the three bottom chefs had to cook again. With just 20 minutes, they had to use any leftover ingredients in the kitchen to make a good plate of food. Again, a simple idea but it is very revealing about a chef’s point of view and that passion to win this whole competition.

As they started cooking, it was clear that David was having issues. Even though his San Francisco restaurant is a zero-waste concept, he seemed overly frazzled in the moment. Without any real direction, he was doomed to fail.

Amanda appeared to be the only chef who clearly had a plan. With such a limited amount of time, it was key to her success.

Teddy did ok in the challenge, but he did not have good technique. Inconsistency knife cuts is a mistake for Worst Cooks, not Top Chef.

David was in the weeds throughout the challenge. His dish lacked direction or clarity. Even though he thought this challenge would be a “flex,” it turned into a flop. The cheftestant eliminated in the Top Chef Season 21 premiere was David.

What will Top Chef Season 21 bring? Hopefully Bravo television viewers will see more than cheeseheads, beer, and Harley Davidsons. From farm fresh produce to classic comfort foods, many people might be ready to book a trip up north. More importantly, they will be hungry to see all the bountiful food that Wisconsin has to offer.

Be sure to watch new episodes of Top Chef Season 21 on Bravo Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Each episode this season is supersized. In addition, episodes can be streamed the next day on Peacock.