During the Top Chef season 17 premiere, there were plenty of familiar faces to be seen because this season is all-stars. The returning chefs are 10 former finalists and five former frontrunners, including Eric Adjepong and Nini Nguyen from just last season and Lee Anne Wong from all the way back in season one.
But viewers may have noticed that the judging panel looked a little different from season 16. Tom Colicchio was still there as head judge and Gail Simmons returned after a season off, but where were Graham Elliot and Nilou Motamed?
Here’s what we know about their departures.
Graham Is Keeping Busy on Other Projects
He was also flying all over the country hosting events, from Open Outcry Brewing in Chicago to Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond festival where he cooked with actress Tiffani Amber Thiessen, to filming his web series the MLB Grub Tour, where he crisscrossed the country going to major league baseball parks to explore the “restaurant quality food” they are beginning to offer. He is also major league baseball’s culinary correspondent.
Motamed Is Hosting a Bravo Digital Series
While Motamed won’t be part of Top Chef season 17, she is still very much a part of the Bravo family. Throughout the season, she and Colicchio will be airing the “What Would Tom Do” video series on Bravotv.com, where they try to replicate and reimagine the dishes the chefs cooked on the show.
Motamed has also been keeping busy hosting a YouTube cooking series for Lee Kum Kee food company.
They Might Not Be Gone for Good
As regular Top Chef viewers know, the long-running cooking competition series has had many judging changes over the years. While Colicchio has been a part of every single season and Simmons only missed season 16 due to being on maternity leave, the other judging spots have been filled with everyone from Ted Allen and Anthony Bourdain, to Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. So rotating judges in and out is nothing new and presumably, Elliot and Motamed could return if they were interested in judging future seasons.
There Are Plenty of Celebrities to Look Forward to in Season 17
Throughout season 17, the all-star chefs are going to cooking for Ali Wong, Randall Park, Kelly Clarkson, Jon Favreau, Roy Choi, Danny Trejo, and more. Plus, they’ll have to wow an impressive roster of culinary A-listers, including Nancy Silverton, Jeremy Tower, Marcus Samuelsson, Kelsey Barnard Clark, Carol & Niki Nakayama, and more.
The winning chef this year will receive the largest cash prize the show has ever awarded in $250,000, plus a feature in Food & Wine magazine and an appearance at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. But winning won’t be easy. Challenges this year include mastering Kaiseki for Michelin-winning chefs of N/Naka, creating a tribute for the Pulitzer Prize-winning and critically acclaimed food critic, the late Jonathan Gold, and honoring one of the most influential restaurants in the country, Michael’s in Santa Monica.
Top Chef season 17 airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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