Three out of the cast of 15 of the upcoming Top Chef season hail from San Francisco kitchens, which puts the odds of the show crowning a new local celebrity chef at one in five.
The cast of Season 21 of Top Chef was just announced Wednesday morning, and the Bay Area is unusually well represented this year on the stalwart Bravo competition series.
As Eater reports, three of the cast members come from SF, with two currently helming kitchens at buzz-y restaurants that just opened in the last two years.
They are Laura Ozyilmaz, the co-chef and co-owner of recently opened Dalida in the Presidio — one of SFist's favorite new openings of 2023 — David Murphy, the chef and co-owner behind those tasty grandma pizzas at Shuggie's Trash Pie + Natural Wine; and Rasika Venkatesa, a chef who grew up in Chennai, India and most recently served as chef de cuisine at Mourad in downtown SF.
Ozyilmaz and husband and co-chef Sayat Ozyilmaz were heaped with praise last year following the opening of their stellar Mediterranean restaurant, which is likely to make it onto some national lists. Meanwhile, Shuggie's, which debuted in May 2022, was named one of Bon Appetit's best new restaurants in the country last year, in addition to garnering attention from Esquire and others.
Venkatesa won a Rising Star award from StarChefs in 2022, and recently left Mourad — which held a Michelin star until last year — to travel across the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to do research for an upcoming Tamil restaurant she plans to open. She had previously worked at the French Laundry under Thomas Keller — as did the sole New York chef on the Season 21 cast, Danny Garcia.
Also, a guest judge this season will be Bay Area comedian W. Kamau Bell.
Bay Area chefs have been featured on numerous previous seasons of Top Chef — and our own Traci Des Jardins was a runner-up on the third season of Top Chef Masters. The very first season of Top Chef in 2006 was, in fact, shot in San Francisco, but the show hasn't returned here since. The upcoming 21st season was shot in Wisconsin.
Local chefs to appear on previous seasons of the show include Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen), Ryan Scott, Erik Hopfinger, Melissa Perfit (formerly at Bar Crudo, now Popi's Oysterette in the Marina), Jen Biesty (now at Oakland's Shakewell), Preeti Mistry, Jamie Lauren (who consulted on the Hi Tops food menu and lives in LA now), Lizzie Binder (formerly of Bar Bambino, now a caterer in Napa), Top Chef All-Stars winner Melissa King, Michelle Minori, Robert Hernandez, Rogelio Garcia, and Sweet & Skinny cookbook author Marisa Churchill.
Below, the full Season 21 cast. The show premieres March 20 on Bravo, and longtime judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons will be joined by new host — and Season 10 winner — Kristen Kish, who replaces Padma Lakshmi.
- Kaleena Bliss - Chicago, IL
- Kevin D’Andrea - Austin, TX
- Alisha Elenz - Chicago, IL
- Danny Garcia - New York, NY
- Valentine Howell Jr. - Boston, MA
- Dan Jacobs - Milwaukee, WI
- Manny Barella Lopez - Denver, CO
- Savannah Miller - Durham, NC
- David Murphy - San Francisco, CA
- Kenny Nguyen - Athens, GA
- Laura Ozyilmaz - San Francisco, CA
- Charly Pierre - New Orleans, LA
- Amanda Turner - Austin, TX
- Rasika Venkatesa - San Francisco, CA
- Michelle Wallace - Houston, TX