When Padma Lakshmi announced last month that she was leaving Top Chef, Kristen Kish was considered a top contender to replace her. On Tuesday, Bravo made it official when they announced Kish will be the show’s new host beginning with Season 21, set in Wisconsin. Kish will join returning judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.
It’s a full circle move for Kish, who won Top Chef Season 10 in 2013. Prior to entering the Top Chef universe, Kish came up in Barbara Lynch’s Boston restaurants Stir and Menton. Lynch, who was recently at the center of workplace harassment allegations, was the one who pushed Kish to consider television. “I was insecure, nervous and unsure of who I was as a person,” Kish told Today.com in 2020. “Barbara was the one who told me I had to go on Top Chef. I will never forget her saying that to me: ‘We need more women on TV.’”
Kish leaned into TV following her Top Chef win. In addition to frequent guest appearances on Top Chef, she also hosted TruTV’s Fast Foodies, Travel Channel’s 36 Hours, National Geographic’s Restaurants at the End of the World, and presented on Netflix’s Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend. She remains involved in the restaurant world with Arlo Gray, which opened in Austin in 2018 in a partnership with the LINE Hotel.
According to the press release, Kish’s first season hosting will highlight the “energetic and unique culinary scenes in Milwaukee and Madison,” a part of the country that hasn’t been featured in Top Chef. The show’s presence in Wisconsin results from a partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which includes the state’s travel boards as well as its dairy farmer and cranberry grower associations.
Season 21 doesn’t yet have a release date. But we can certainly expect Kish to oversee a cheese-focused challenge or two when it airs.