Season 18 of the Emmy-winning cooking competition airs April 1

By Mary Honkus
February 08, 2021 03:01 PM
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Bravo's Top Chef is headed to Portland, Ore.

The Emmy and James Beard Award-winning reality competition series will kick off their 18th season in April with 15 talented chefs and restaurant owners from across the U.S. competing for the coveted title and $250,000.

In a first look at the trailer above, released in a joint exclusively with PEOPLE and our sister publications, Entertainment Weekly and Food & Wine, the cooks go head to head during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To follow safety precautions, it appears that there were a number of changes to accommodate this year's competition. Some guest chefs can be seen on video conference calls, and at one point, the cheftestants cook for a Top Chef Drive-In restaurant.

Credit: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Padma Lakshmi will host once again and for the first time ever, past Top Chef winners and finalists — including Kristen Kish, Edward Lee, and Nina Compton — will join a rotating judging and dining panel alongside head judge Tom Colicchio, and judge Gail Simmons.

Credit: David Moir/Bravo

In addition to the cash prize, the cooks are competing for a feature in Food & Wine magazine, and an appearance at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The full list of cheftestants is below:

  • Brittanny Anderson (Richmond, Virginia)
  • Avishar Barua (Columbus, Ohio)
  • Dawn Burrell (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • Gabe Erales (Austin, Texas)
  • Nelson German (Oakland, California)
  • Byron Gomez (Aspen, Colorado)
  • Sasha Grumman (Houston, Texas)
  • Roscoe Hall (Birmingham, Alabama)
  • Sara Hauman (Portland, Oregon)
  • Kiki Louya (Detriot, Michigan)
  • Maria Mazon (Tuscon, Arizona)
  • Shota Nakajima (Seattle, Washington)
  • Gabriel Pascuzzi (Portland, Oregon)
  • Jamie Tran (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Chris Viaud (Milford, New Hampshire)

During the high-intensity competition, the chefs will utilize their unique skillsets to compete in various challenges including the beloved "Restaurant Wars," where teams are selected to conceptualize and pull off "a micro-restaurant concept with a cohesive seven-course tasting menu that rivals the best in the world," according to a press release.

Credit: David Moir/Bravo

The contestants will explore the diverse culinary offerings in Portland like the history of Pan-African cuisine in the area. "I'm almost in tears that Pan-African is being featured on such a platform," says Burrell in the trailer.

"This is the first time that I've had food that felt like home," adds a teary-eyed Louya.

The cooks will also crab off the Oregon coast, and help to feed hundreds of frontline workers as they fight to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Once again, eliminated chefs will have the opportunity to rejoin the competition on Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen. Tom Colicchio will host as the chefs go through tasks that can earn them a chance to return to the competition. The Emmy-winning digital series will be available to stream on Thursday, April 8 on Bravotv.com.

Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Top Chef season 18 premieres Thursday, April 1 at 8 p.m. EST on Bravo.