The Ultimate 'Top Chef' Tour of Kentucky
Nearly every season of Top Chef serves as both a cooking competition and culinary travelogue. Bringing the show to states like Colorado and Texas, and filming finales internationally in locales from Mexico to Macau, the dishes, ingredients, and culture of its host locations permeate the series. Season 16 in Kentucky was no exception, as Top Chef served to highlight the state’s unique and storied cuisine and pastimes. From bourbon and burgoo to horse racing and houseboats, almost all of the challenges this crop of cheftestants faced were distinctly native to the Bluegrass State.
If you’re planning a trip to experience Kentucky’s burgeoning cities and restaurant scenes or planning an escape to the countryside, Top Chef’s trail through the state is a satisfyingly robust itinerary to follow. From Louisville to Lexington to day trips outside the city, here’s a complete list of everywhere the Top Chef contestants and judges visited in Kentucky:
The Brown Hotel
Birthplace of the Hot Brown sandwich, as featured in the Episode 7 Quickfire, this hotel has been a staple of downtown Louisville since 1923.
The Brown Hotel, 335 West Broadway Louisville, KY 40202 — brownhotel.com
Not only did Butchertown Grocery’s beverage director Nic Christensen appear in speakeasy-themed Episode 6, the judges and crew of Top Chef also dined at the eatery during their stay.
Butchertown Grocery, 1076 E Washington St, Louisville, KY 40206 — butchertowngrocery.com
Top Chef season 14 contestant Annie Pettry, who appeared in Episode 7 this season, is the chef and owner behind this New-American restaurant with live music, patio dining, and a rustic basement bar. If the number of appetizing dishes on her seasonal menu is too much choose from, I’ll just say you can’t go wrong with the pork chops.
Decca, 812 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206 — deccarestaurant.com
Edward Lee’s Restaurants
Season 9 contestant Edward Lee has been busy since making that Texas-based season. Lee has three restaurants in Louisville, from Southern fare at 610 Magnolia in Old Louisville to Southern and Korean flavors combining at MilkWood to burgers and bourbon at Whiskey Dry.
610 Magnolia, 610 Magnolia Ave. Louisville, KY 40208 — 610magnolia.com
MilkWood, 316 W. Main St. Louisville, KY 40202 — milkwoodrestaurant.com
Whiskey Dry, 412 S. Fourth St. Louisville, KY 40202 — whiskeydryrestaurant.com
Fox Hollow Farm
Part of the focus of the Kentucky season was on the state's quality, homegrown ingredients. That includes beef, a product which Kentucky supplies more of than any other state east of the Mississippi. Continuing a family legacy, Maggie Keith is the fourth-generation steward of Fox Hollow Farm, supplying grass-fed beef locally and around the country (and to the Top Chef contestants in Episode 7), as well as hosting tenant growers on the property. Walk the grounds, pop into the on-site shop, or take in one of the summertime music festivals on the lawn.
Fox Hollow Farm, 8905 Kentucky 329 Crestwood, KY 40014 — foxhollow.com
The Henry Clay
Once a historic hotel, The Henry Clay hosted season 16’s first Elimination Challenge and is now an elegant event space. Stroll on by as you explore downtown Louisville’s many sights, museums, and shopping destinations.
The Henry Clay, 604 S. 3rd St. Louisville, KY 40202 — thehenryclay.com
Located on the restaurant row of Bardstown Road, Kathy Clary’s Lilly’s Bistro was an early adopter of farm-to-table cuisine in Louisville, opening in 1988. Clary was a guest in Episode 2 of this season.
Lilly’s Bistro, 1147 Bardstown Rd. Louisville, KY 40204 — lillysbistro.com
The Seelbach Hilton and Rathskeller
Opened in 1905, the grand-European-hotel-inspired Seelbach is home to its own namesake cocktail and in-house restaurant Rathskeller which is currently used for private events (including the filming of Episode 6).
The Seelbach Hilton, 500 S. 4th St. Louisville, KY 40202 — seelbachhilton.com
Of course, no Top Chef tour of any city would be complete without a run to Whole Foods. Thankfully you don’t have to shop with a ticking clock or an imposed budget if you don’t want to.
Whole Foods, 4944 Shelbyville Rd. Louisville, KY 40207 — wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/louisville
Of course, that only scratches the surface of Louisville’s edible offerings. While in town, the judges and crew of Top Chef explored many hotspots, from barbecue and bourbon slushes at Feast BBQ to coffee and cookies at Please & Thank You. Walk down East Market Street and you’ll find vintage candy shop Muth’s Candies serving Bourbon Balls, hot chicken at Royals, gastropub food served in a converted gas station at Garage Bar, and more distillery tours than you can shake a stick at all over town. Don’t forget to check out the city’s many speakeasies, including the expansive Hell or High Water that hides behind a nondescript storefront on Washington Street.
Season 16 was off to the races in the most appropriate way when the cheftestants first met and competed in a Quickfire at Churchill Downs racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs, 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY, 40208 — churchilldowns.com
Colonel Sanders Museum
The contestants and former KFC employee Chef Art Smith paid tribute to Colonel Sanders in the Episode 11 Quickfire. Learn everything you might want to know about the chicken chain entrepreneur at the museum in KFC's Louisville headquarters. Or if you're in the mood for a road trip, try the vintage Harland Sanders Café and Museum in Corbin, KY.
Colonel Sanders Museum, 1441 Gardiner Lane Louisville, KY 40213 (open Mon.-Thu. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fri 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Muhammad Ali Center
Experience the life and legacy of Louisville native and "The Greatest" himself, boxer Muhammad Ali at his namesake museum where the chefs were inspired by his most famous bouts in Episode 11 this season.
Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth Street Louisville, KY 40202 — alicenter.org
For even more Louisville travel ideas, visit gotolouisville.com.
Ouita Michel's Restaurants
Chef and restaurateur Ouita Michel was on hand for Restaurant Wars and a judge in the last Elimination Challenge in Kentucky which determined the top five chefs headed to Macau for the finals. Michel's restaurant group includes seven outposts around the Lexington area:
Holly Hill Inn, 426 North Winter Street Midway, KY 40347 — hollyhillinn.com
Honeywood, 110 Summit at Fritz Farm, Suite 140 Lexington, KY — honeywoodrestaurant.com
The Midway Bakery, 510 South Winter Street Midway, KY 40347 — themidwaybakery.com
Smithtown Seafood, 119 Marion Street, Suite 160, Lexington, KY— smithtownseafood.com
Wallace Station, 3854 Old Frankfort Pike Versailles, KY 40383 — wallacestation.com
Windy Corner Market, 4595 Bryan Station Rd. Lexington, KY — windycornermarket.com
Zim's Cafe, 215 West Main Street, Suite 25 Lexington, KY— zimscafe.com
Obviously, Michel isn’t the only chef in town. Explore Lexington's diverse array of immigrant community eateries, including the Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk, which Padma Lakshmi put on her itinerary.
Home of world's leading thoroughbred horse auction house (featured in Episode 12), stop by to watch races and auctions, or just stroll the grounds and stables.
Keeneland, 4201 Versailles Rd. Lexington, Kentucky 40510 — keeneland.com
The home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball is also the site of the most contentious Top Chef battle of Season 16.
Rupp Arena, 30 W Vine St, Lexington, KY 40507 — rupparena.com
Explore more of Lexington's sites and bites at visitlex.com.
As the chefs did in Episode 8, the proper way to enjoy a day on Lake Cumberland is in your very own houseboat. It is the "houseboat capital of the world," after all.
More information on visiting Lake Cumberland here.
Maker’s Mark Distillery and Star Hill Provisions
Located amid rolling green hills about one hour south of Louisville, the Marker's Mark Distillery offers a picturesque locale to immerse yourself in bourbon-making and tasting and dine hearty Kentuckian fare. Step out of the car, and you're immediately hit with the sweet smell of malting cereal grains. Tour the original stills, the limestone cellars where part of Top Chef was filmed, or follow your nose through a guided tasting session. Chef Newman Miller of the on-site restaurant Star Hill Provisions (who cooked for the chefs and dined with the judges in Episode 2) serves farm-to-table Kentucky classics like Benedictine sandwiches and bourbon cocktails in a casual atmosphere that compliments the rural landscape.
Maker's Mark, 3350 Burks Spring Rd. Loretto, KY 40037 — makersmark.com/tours
Freight House (Paducah, KY)
The only Season 16 cheftestant representing the host state, Sarah Bradley opened Freight House after returning home in 2015 from years spent working at Dovetail in New York and Blackbird in Chicago. Expect locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients that put a modern twist on traditional Southern flavors.
Freight House, 330 S. 3rd St. #102 Paducah, KY 42003 — freighthousefood.com
Plan your own 'Top Chef' Kentucky getaway with additional resources from Kentucky Tourism.