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The South Represents on Top Chef’s New Season

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The South Represents on Top Chef’s New Season
From left: contestant BJ Smith, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, and contestant Jim Smith. (Paul Cheney/Bravo Media)

A slate of Southern chefs will sharpen their knives for a heated competition when Bravo’s cutthroat culinary series Top Chef returns for its 14th season tonight at 10 pm.

Number of chefs vying for the title of Top Chef this season (and a cool $125,000): 16
The new season pits old blood against new—the contestants are a mix of newcomers and chefs who previously competed on the show.

Southern chefs among them: 6
John Tesar of Knife at the Highland Dallas is returning after competing on season ten, while the rest are newcomers. There’s Annie Pettry of Louisville’s Decca; Emily Hahn of Warehouse Bar + Kitchen in Charleston; Gerald Sombright of Ario in Marco Island, Florida; Jamie Lynch of Charlotte’s 5Church; and Jim Smith, executive chef for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Ranking Charleston, South Carolina, (this season’s filming location) earned on Travel + Leisure’s 2016 Best Cities in the World list: 1
The Holy City’s food and beverage scene is as hot as its notorious summers. In 2016 alone, it’s cropped up on lists including Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Food Cities in the US, Travel Channel’s Best Food Cities, the Washington Post’s 10 Best Food Cities in America, and Zagat’s Top 17 Food Cities.

Previous seasons of Top Chef filmed in the South: 4
Season 3 was filmed in Miami; season 7 in Washington, DC; season 9 in cities across Texas; and season 11 in New Orleans.

Number of episodes this season: 14
The season introduces some uniquely Southern challenges. The chefs are challenged to cook barbecue for Hemingway, South Carolina’s legendary pit master Rodney Scott and prepare a feast in honor of the late Edna Lewis, a chef and author who championed Southern African American foodways. There’s also a shrimp and grits cook-off and biscuit blowout on deck.

Guest judges appearing on the new season: 19
They include a few familiar Southern faces: Hugh Acheson, Sean Brock, John Currence, BJ Dennis, Mike Lata, Frank Lee, and Carrie Morey, among others.

For more information on the new season, click here.