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

Top Chef Season 18 Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, and judge Gail Simmons
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.

Top Chef Season 18
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.

Top Chef Season 18
Top Chef Season 18
| 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.

Top Chef Season 18 Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, and judge Gail Simmons
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.

Top Chef Season 18
Credit: David Moir/Bravo

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