Here Are All the Chefs Competing on 'Top Chef' Season 18 in Portland
The 15 cheftestants will attempt to cook their way to the title this spring.
The pandemic has put a lot of Hollywood on hold, but some cooking competitions have been able to work around and under COVID-19 safety requirements to keep cameras rolling. Such was the case with the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show, which saw the bakers, hosts, and judges (and their families) living in a bubble. A similar effort has been underway for Bravo's iconic Top Chef series, which last summer announced it would be making a few production changes and setting up shop in the show's latest locale, Portland, Oregon.
Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons will all be returning to the Judges' Table, along with a slate of guest judges that includes Richard Blais, Carrie Baird, Nina Compton, Tiffany Derry, Gregory Gourdet, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Edward Lee, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana, Dale Talde, and Brooke Williamson. We've also been told to expect appearances by the likes of José Andrés, Massimo Bottura, Gabriel Rucker, and Alice Waters, as well as Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
Today, we finally found out whose food they'll be judging as we get our first look at the cast of 15 chefs. Take a look below at their names, faces, and bios as provided by Bravo:
Hometown: Richmond, VA
Current city of residence: Richmond, VA
Occupation/Profession: Chef and Co-Owner of Metzger Bar and Butchery, Brenner Pass, and Black Lodge, Richmond, VA. Leni, Washington, D.C
Two-time James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, Brittanny Anderson is the Chef and Co-Owner of four establishments: Metzger Bar and Butchery, Brenner Pass, and Black Lodge in Richmond, VA and Leni in Washington, D.C. After attending the French Culinary Institute in New York City, Brittanny sought out an apprenticeship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns where she extensively learned about sustainability and local sourcing of true farm-to-table cuisine. She then went on to be a part of the opening team of Northern Spy Food Co. in Manhattan’s East Village where she worked her way up as Sous Chef before returning to her native Virginia to open her own restaurant. In 2014, Brittanny opened Metzger, which focuses on German-influenced dishes with an emphasis on seasonal and sustainable ingredients. She strives to transform classic cuisine with modern presentation and local ingredients. With the success of Metzger, both locally and nationally, Brittanny has expanded her brand with a second chef-driven modern European restaurant, a seafood distribution business, a curated cheese company, coffee shop, and bar. She currently lives outside of Richmond, VA, with her husband, Kjell, and their dog and two cats.
Hometown: Columbus, OH
Current city of residence: Columbus, OH
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef & GM, Service Bar
Avishar Barua is the Executive Chef and General Manager of Service Bar in Columbus, Ohio. Born in Columbus, Ohio to immigrant parents who left Bangladesh in search of better opportunities in America, Avishar pursued his true passion of cooking after getting bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology at The Ohio State University. After attending culinary school, he went to New York City and trained under Wylie Dufresne at Michelin starred WD~50. He returned to Ohio to open Service Bar for Middle West Spirits, a local grain to glass distiller, where he has since gained national recognition from Food & Wine Magazine for his signature dish, the Cheesy Brisket Crunch.
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Current city of residence: Houston, TX
Occupation/Profession: Partner/Executive Chef, Lucille’s Hospitality Group
Olympian turned chef, Dawn Burrell’s world travels with USA’s Track & Field team ignited her deep love for food. After competing in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Dawn traded in her track spikes for a full-time culinary career and enrolled in Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Houston. She cut her teeth with a variety of chefs, including chef Tom Aikens in London and Houston’s Monica Pope, before landing a gig at Tyson Cole's Uchi in Houston. Chef Dawn went on to become the sous chef at Uchi’s award-winning sister restaurant, Uchiko, in Austin. An Executive Chef title at modern Southern restaurant Kulture followed where she honed her signature “global comfort” cooking style and earned her first James Beard nomination for “Best Chef: Texas” in 2020. She departed during the pandemic and recently joined chef Chris Williams’ Lucille’s Hospitality Group as Partner/Executive Chef of her very first proprietary concept exploring Afro-Asian cuisine.
Hometown: El Paso, TX
Current city of residence: Austin, TX
Chef Gabe Erales was born and raised in the culturally rich border town of El Paso, TX. Heavily influenced by his family's Mexican culture, Gabe formed an early appreciation for the food his parents prepared which ignited his passion for cooking. Gabe began working in kitchens at the age of 15 before moving to Austin, TX, to attend college at the University of Texas where he graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. During this time, Gabe realized his true calling remained in the kitchen and concurrently completed culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Austin. As the soul of his cooking lies in Mexican cuisine, he spent time working for some of Austin's most notable chefs such as the late Miguel Ravago at The Fonda San Miguel, Rene Ortiz at La Condesa and Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due. He also draws inspiration from his experience in the kitchen at Noma in both Copenhagen and Mexico. Gabe’s cooking philosophy strives to focus on locality through strength in relationships with local farmers including sourcing unique varieties of landrace corn, chiles, and other ingredients from different regions of Mexico. Most recently, heserved as Executive Chef of Comedor Restaurant, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Austin, TX, that was voted Best New Restaurant by Esquire Magazine (2019), Austin Monthly (2019), and Texas Monthly (2020). Married with four children, he is currently working on a new restaurant concept that he hopes to announce soon.
Hometown: New York City
Current city of residence: Oakland, CA
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, alaMar Kitchen and Sobre Mesa Afro-Latino cocktail lounge
A Dominican-American hailing from Washington Heights, NY, chef Nelson German is the Executive Chef/Owner of alaMar Kitchen and Sobre Mesa Afro-Latino cocktail lounge, both located in Oakland. He received his culinary training at the NY Art Institute where he learned the foundation of Mediterranean-style cooking incorporating French techniques. He worked his way up from line cook to Executive Chef in New York staples like Gramercy Park Hotel, Jerry’s Café, Joseph’s, and Citarella. He believes in letting his food tell the stories of his journey, derived from childhood memories, inspirational travels, food escapades and his own original ideas. After meeting the love of his life, chef Nelson and his fiancée relocated to her hometown in the San Francisco Bay Area where he joined Supper Club SF and adopted a new-found appreciation for California cuisine. His unorthodox culinary style draws from his Dominican heritage, his African roots, his embrace of Mediterranean cuisine and Asian influence, coupled with his love of sustainable California ingredients.
Hometown: Central Islip, Long Island
Current city of residence: Aspen, CO
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef at 7908
Born in Costa Rica but raised in New York, chef Byron Gomez is the Executive Chef of 7908, Aspen’s finest supper club. Bryon has trained and worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Manhattan, under the best chefs and mentors in the industry including Daniel Boulud, Gavin Kaysen, Daniel Humm, and Ronny Emborg. Despite not having any formal training, he worked hard to be self-taught, advancing his way through the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants, Café Boulud, Atera, and Eleven Madison Park. As Sous Chef at EMP, the restaurant won Top Restaurant in the World by S. Pellegrino. He later traveled with the Eleven Madison Park teams to their pop-up restaurants in the Hamptons and Aspen, before deciding to settle down in the Rocky Mountains. Byron enjoys seasonal activities such as cycling, snowboarding and surfing, but his favorite activity is to cook and break bread, especially on his days off.
Hometown: Newport Beach, CA
Current city of residence: Houston, TX
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef
Raised in a large Sicilian family where food was the central focus for family gatherings, Sasha Grumman went to the French Culinary Institute in New York and spent her last three months at ALMA culinary school in Parma, Italy. After staging at the Michelin-starred Giuda Ballerino in Rome, she graduated at the top of her class and moved to San Francisco to work at Delfina Restaurant. After cooking for notable chefs, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin, she landed in Houston as the Executive Chef of Rosalie Italian Soul. In Los Angeles, she worked as Top Chef Alum Bruce Kalman’s Chef de Cuisine at Union. During the pandemic, Sasha has started a focaccia business that she hopes to take national.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Current city of residence: Birmingham, Alabama
Roscoe Hall is not only a chef, but also an accomplished artist who works in a variety of media. He was introduced to fine dining at a young age and immediately wanted to get into the kitchen. He started as a dishwasher at a small local restaurant until he landed a job as a line cook at Chez Panisse, where he trained for two years under Alice Waters. He then moved up the culinary ranks learning various cuisines at multiple restaurants in St. Louis and Portland, before heading to New York City to work under Chef David Chang at Momofuku Saam Bar. He later moved to Birmingham, AL and served as Executive Chef for Rodney Scott’s BBQ. With a kick-ass wife and two hilarious children, Roscoe recently took on a new role as culinary director for Post Office Pies and is working on an exhibition of his latest art.
Hometown: Vista, CA
Current city of residence: Portland, OR
Occupation/Profession: Head Chef, Soter Vineyards
Chef Sara grew up in Vista, CA, a small town in north San Diego County. After graduating high school, Sara moved to the south of Spain where food became an obsession and ultimately fueled her decision to return to the states to attend culinary school. At the age of 22, Sara relocated to San Francisco and worked with Brandon Jew at Bar Agricole which shaped her simple approach to food. In 2013, Sara returned to Spain to work at famed restaurant Asador Etxebarri. This experience propelled Sara into her first head chef position at Huxley in San Francisco where she garnered many accolades and awards, including a 3-star review from the San Francisco Chronicle, Eater Young Guns, Zagat 30 under 30, and a James Beard semi-finalist Rising Star Chef in 2016 and 2017. Chef Sara was also named Rising Star Chef for the San Francisco Chronicle while working as chef de cuisine under Melissa Perello at one-Michelin starred restaurant Octavia and also reconnected with Brandon Jew at one-Michelin starred restaurant Mister Jiu’s. She currently works as the head chef at Soter Vineyards in Carlton, OR, and resides in Portland.
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Current city of residence: Detroit, MI
Occupation/Profession: Chef / Consultant
Detroit native Kiki Louya is a chef, writer, food activist and restaurant consultant. The New York Times named her one of “16 Black Chefs Changing Food in America” because of her pursuit for social justice, use of local agriculture, and fight for fair wages at her restaurants. Kiki received critical acclaim for her work as Chef/Owner of Detroit’s Folk & The Farmer’s Hand, two award winning restaurants, before eventually stepping down from leadership in March 2020. The daughter of a Congolese immigrant, Kiki draws inspiration from her own cultural background, often using food as a conduit for deeper discussions around what it means to be Black in America. She is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, as well as The University of Michigan, and has given lectures about her expertise on food, farming and entrepreneurship with students at Yale and Georgetown. When not in the kitchen, Kiki is tending to her wild vegetable garden alongside her husband and two rambunctious rescue pit bulls.
Hometown: Born in Tucson, AZ, Raised in Navojoa, Sonora
Current city of residence: Tucson, AZ
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, BOCA Tacos y Tequila
Chef Maria Mazon is the Executive Chef and Owner of BOCA Tacos y Tequila in Tucson, Arizona. Born in Tucson but raised in Sonora, Mexico, Maria’s cuisine is inspired by both sides of her borderland home. Using the unique flavors and ingredients of the Sonoran Desert, Maria’s experimental take on classic Mexican fare have earned her local and national accolades including The New York Times. She has been pushing the boundaries for years, introducing to people unique flavors and exotic ingredients. In 2020, Maria became a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Southwest Region. When not at the restaurant, Maria loves cooking for her wife, Lilly, and their 12-year-old son.
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan & Seattle, WA
Current city of residence: Seattle, WA
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, Taku
Born in Japan and raised in Seattle, Shota Nakajima began his culinary journey at age 16 working for a highly acclaimed sushi restaurant. At age 18 he moved to Osaka, Japan to learn the art of Japanese cuisine from Michelin Star-rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto, an experience that greatly changed Shota’s perspective on hospitality, cooking and his approach to food. Developing his own meticulous and imaginative culinary detail, and a stringent demand for high-quality, Shota set out to expand Japanese cuisine in the United States by bringing a fresh perspective on approachable Japanese comfort food through his two restaurants, Taku and Adana. A James Beard Award semi-finalist for three years running, Shota seizes every opportunity to get outside and forage or fish, taking advantage of the abundance of wild goods in Washington’s mountains and waters.
Hometown: Portland, OR
Current city of residence: Portland, OR
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, Mama Bird, Stacked Sandwich Shop, and Feel Good
Gabriel Pascuzzi is the chef and owner of three restaurants in Portland, Oregon—Mama Bird, Stacked Sandwich Shop and Feel Good. Growing up in an Italian American household, his love of food started at a young age. He grew up visiting his uncle’s acclaimed restaurant in Big Fork, Montana washing lettuce and peeling shrimp in exchange for a slice of pie. After apprenticing for his uncle during high school, he went on to Johnson & Wales University receiving a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. Gabriel then cut his teeth in New York City working for Daniel Boulud and head judge Tom Colicchio at Colicchio & Sons. He later staged at the world-renowned and two Michelin star restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. Returning home, he helmed several kitchens before opening his first restaurant, Stacked Sandwich Shop in 2017. Stacked has been named on Thrillist’s Top 31 Sandwich Shops in America. Gabriel also took home Eater Portland’s Chef of the Year in 2017. In 2019, he opened Mama Bird six months before the pandemic hit.
Hometown: Stockton, CA
Current city of residence: Las Vegas, NV
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, The Black Sheep
Jamie Tran is the chef and owner of Las Vegas’ The Black Sheep, where she serves her original take on casual modern Vietnamese American food in an elevated neighborhood environment. The name is an homage to Jamie’s playfully rebellious spirit and her drive to break through a male-dominated industry.
Jamie’s cooking journey began when she was only four years old. She made her first dish standing on top of a milk crate to cook fried rice with her mother. After graduating from San Francisco State with a business degree and then Le Cordon Bleu, Jamie saw the emerging food scene in Las Vegas and moved there to be a part-time line-cook at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole. She honed her craft under Executive Chef Vincent Pouessel, climbing the ranks to executive Sous Chef. She then went to the banquets department at The Venetian, before being recruited for the executive chef role at DB Brasserie by Daniel Boulud. After opening The Black Sheep, Eater Las Vegas honored Jamie with Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year.
Hometown: Randolph MA
Current city of residence: Milford, NH
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner of Greenleaf and Culture
Chris Viaud is the Chef and Owner of Greenleaf and Culture, both located in Milford, New Hampshire. Raised in the Boston suburb of Randolph with his parents who immigrated from Haiti, Chris moved to Londonderry, NH and upon graduating high school attended Johnson & Wales University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts & Food Service Management. After completing culinary school, he returned to Boston where he spent three of his most formative years at Modern French restaurant, Deuxave, where he worked his way through the ranks alongside Executive Chef and Owner Chris Coombs, Top Chef alum Adrienne Mosier and acclaimed Chef Stefanie Bui. Since Deuxave, he has been an essential part of four restaurant openings in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire area. At 28 years old, Chris opened his own restaurant Greenleaf in Milford, NH. His approach to food is rustic yet refined by classic techniques and his menus are driven by locally grown seasonal products. A year later, he opened Culture, a from-scratch bakery producing artisanal breads, sandwiches, and pastries while supporting local farms. His strength and motivation build from the support of his family, friends, and staff and he continues to push himself every day, especially now that he has a young daughter named Madeleine.
As for what to expect this season, as usual, Top Chef will showcase the best ingredients and experiences its location has to offer. Take a look at the teaser for season 18 below.
"During a time of extreme hardship in the restaurant industry, these chefs have more on the line than ever before," the show's official announcement said. "From working with foraged mushrooms and picking produce at the famous Hood River Fruit Loop to visiting the Tillamook Creamery, the chefs are tasked with cooking with Oregon's natural bounty of ingredients. With Padma, Tom and Gail and a table full of alums to impress, the expectations have never been higher, especially in this year's unique Restaurant Wars where the teams must perfectly execute on a micro-restaurant concept with a cohesive seven-course tasting menu that rivals the best in the world."
"To stay in the game, the chefs must cook at their best while contending with a Quickfire using ingredients used on the Oregon Trail and a surf and turf elimination challenge honoring the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation," it continued. "While in the 'City of Roses,"'the judges definitely don't hold back their thorns as they narrow it down to find this season's 'Top Chef.'"
The winner of Top Chef receives $250,000 courtesy of S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, as well as an appearance at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
Top Chef Season 18 in Portland premieres Thursday, April 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Find more information and video content at bravotv.com/top-chef.