|Top Chef: California|
|Hosted by||Padma Lakshmi|
|No. of contestants||17|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||15|
|Original release||December 2, 2015 –|
March 17, 2016
Top Chef: California is the thirteenth season of the American reality television series Top Chef. The season was announced by Bravo on April 14, 2015. Similar to Top Chef: Texas, filming took place in several locations across California, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Oakland, and the greater Palm Springs area, concluding with a finale in Las Vegas, Nevada. Top Chef: California had a two-night premiere on December 2–3, 2015. Host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio returned, alongside judges Gail Simmons, Emeril Lagasse, and Richard Blais, among others. The companion web series, Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen, also returned, premiering immediately following the second part of the season premiere on December 3, 2015. In the season finale, Jeremy Ford was declared the winner over runner-up Amar Santana. Isaac Toups was voted Fan Favorite.
17 chefs were selected to compete in Top Chef: California, including one returning contestant, Grayson Schmitz, who originally competed in Top Chef: Texas.
|Karen Akunowicz||Kearny, New Jersey||Boston, Massachusetts||37|
|Angelina Bastidas||Miami, Florida||Miami, Florida||25|
|Carl Dooley||Boston, Massachusetts||Boston, Massachusetts||30|
|Garret Fleming||Rockford, Illinois||Washington, D.C.||33|
|Jeremy Ford||Jacksonville, Florida||Miami, Florida||30|
|Renee Kelly||Shawnee, Kansas||Merriam, Kansas||34|
|Phillip Frankland Lee||Los Angeles, California||Los Angeles, California||28|
|Marjorie Meek-Bradley||Ukiah, California||Washington, D.C.||30|
|Kwame Onwuachi||Bronx, New York||Washington, D.C.||25|
|Amar Santana||Queens, New York||Orange County, California||33|
|Grayson Schmitz||New Holstein, Wisconsin||New York, New York||32|
|Jason Stratton||Seattle, Washington||Seattle, Washington||35|
|Frances Tariga-Weshnak||Manila, Philippines||New York, New York||33|
|Isaac Toups||Rayne, Louisiana||New Orleans, Louisiana||36|
|Wesley True||Mobile, Alabama||Atlanta, Georgia||38|
|Giselle Wellman||San Diego, California||Los Angeles, California||31|
|Chad White||Spokane, Washington||San Diego, California||32|
Kwame Onwuachi returned for Top Chef: Colorado, competing in the Last Chance Kitchen. Karen Akunowicz returned for Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.
|Contestant||Elimination Challenge Results|
^Note 1 : The chef(s) did not receive immunity for winning the Quickfire Challenge.
^Note 2 : Angelina lost the Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge and was eliminated.
^Note 3 : Amar lost the Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge and was eliminated.
^Note 4 : As the winner of the Quickfire Challenge, Jeremy automatically advanced to the finale; therefore, he did not have to compete in the Elimination Challenge.
^Note 5 : Amar won Last Chance Kitchen and returned to the competition.
Main article: List of Top Chef episodes
|Title||Original air date|
|189||1||"Stop the Presses"||December 2, 2015|
Quickfire Challenge (Part 1): Seventeen chefs were flown to Los Angeles to begin a six-city expedition across California. The contestants competed in a mise en place race to start the competition. They were presented with five Californian ingredients: asparagus, artichokes, oranges, chickens, and eggs. Based on their skill sets, the chefs had to decide which ingredient to prep; each set of ingredients was available on a first-come, first-served basis. The first nine chefs to finish their tasks proceeded to the second round.
Quickfire Challenge (Part 2): The chefs, separated into three teams, had to work together to create a single dish using one of the prepped ingredients from the previous round. The chefs took turns cooking their team's dish, but were only allowed ten minutes each. The chefs waiting for their turns were required to wear blindfolds. In addition, teammates were not allowed to communicate with each other about the direction of their dishes. The members of the winning team received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs served 200 guests at a dineLA showcase in Lake Hollywood Park. The contestants were allowed to cook any dish that reflected their culinary style. The guests, which included food critics and bloggers from across the state, scored the chefs' dishes. Their average scores determined which chefs were eligible to win and lose the challenge. Out of the pool of eligible contestants, the judges then decided their most favorite and least favorite dishes.
|190||2||"Pop Up Pandemonium"||December 3, 2015|
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were asked to meet on the roof of their hotel, where they were greeted by Lakshmi and guest judge Ludo Lefebvre. The contestants, split into four teams, were tasked with opening pop-up restaurants around the city of Los Angeles. Each team had to create a menu that embodied the neighborhood their restaurant was located in.
|191||3||"Spines and Vines"||December 10, 2015|
Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge: The contestants embarked on their California road trip to the season's first destination: Santa Barbara. Upon arriving at the Sanford Winery, the chefs were required to create a dish featuring uni which paired well with a Sanford wine for Lakshmi and guest judge Dana Cowin. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Dishes from Marjorie, Kwame, and Phillip were not shown.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were initially paired up to work together on surf and turf dishes. However, following their arrival at the Bacara Resort and Spa, the pairs were informed that they would instead be competing against each other in a "surf vs. turf" competition. As the winner of the Quickfire, Grayson was able to choose which pair to join to form a group of three. The dishes were presented to a table of guest judges, including chefs Cat Cora, Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, Suzanne Goin, and Michael Cimarusti. The guest judges voted on which chef won each head-to-head battle; the winners were eligible to win the challenge, while the losers were put up for elimination. Out of the pool of eligible contestants, the regular judges then decided their most favorite and least favorite dishes. The winner received their own barrel of wine from Sanford Winery.
|192||4||"It's a Dry Heat"||December 17, 2015|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs traveled to their next destination: Palm Springs. After taking a jeep tour to the San Andreas Fault Line, the contestants were required to create dishes using solar-powered equipment for Lakshmi and guest judge José Andrés. The chefs were assigned either a solar stove or solar oven following a random knife draw. The winner received immunity from elimination, a US$10,000 donation to World Central Kitchen on their behalf, and one of the portable solar stoves from the challenge.
Dishes from Kwame, Karen, Chad, and Angelina were not shown
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were separated into two teams based on the equipment they used during the Quickfire Challenge. The teams had to create a four-course progressive meal, beginning with an appetizer and ending with a dessert, to be served at the PGA West golf course for Lakshmi, Colicchio, Blais, and various guests, including José Andrés, Mary Sue Milliken, and John Besh. The chefs did not have access to a kitchen and were forced to serve their dishes from refreshment carts.
|193||5||"Big Gay Wedding"||January 7, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs had to create a dish highlighting dates inspired by their most memorable romantic date for Lakshmi and guest judge Chrissy Teigen. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Marjorie's dish was not shown.
Elimination Challenge: Working as one team, the chefs catered a wedding reception for 25 gay couples, including guest judge Art Smith, Top Chef: Miami contestant and Top Chef culinary producer Sandee Birdsong, and Top Chef: New York contestant Richard Sweeney.
|194||6||"Banannaise"||January 14, 2016|
Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge: The competition moved to San Diego for its next road trip destination. The contestants met Lakshmi and guest judge Javier Plascencia at Tuna Harbor outside Seaport Village, where they were assigned the task of preparing fish tacos. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Angelina failed to plate her food in time. Jeremy's dish was not shown.
Elimination Challenge: Lakshmi, Colicchio, Lagasse, and Blais handed out their own specialty craft beers to the contestants, each containing different flavors. The chefs were responsible for capturing the essence of the beers in their dishes. The dishes were served to the four judges and two guests, Steve Gonzales of Stone Brewing Co. and Yuseff Cherney of Ballast Point Brewing Company, who collaborated with the judges on their microbrews.
|195||7||"Back in the Day"||January 21, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The contestants returned to Los Angeles. The ten remaining chefs had 20 seconds each to select one ingredient from the Top Chef pantry; these ten ingredients would be the only items they were allowed to use. The chefs chose steak, chicken, jalapeños, salt, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and celery. Their dishes were served to Lakshmi and Top Chef: Chicago and Top Chef: All-Stars finalist Antonia Lofaso. The winner received immunity from elimination.
Elimination Challenge: In honor of the show's tenth anniversary, the chefs had to create a dish representing themselves from ten years ago. The dishes were served in the Top Chef kitchen to a table consisting of regular judges Lakshmi, Colicchio, Simmons, and Blais; Quickfire Challenge guest judge Lofaso; and various other guests, including Kris Yenbamroong, Zach Pollack, Nancy Silverton, Top Chef: Las Vegas winner Michael Voltaggio, and Top Chef: Boston winner Mei Lin.
|196||8||"Where's the Beef?"||January 28, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The contestants were tasked by Lakshmi and Instagram star Jacques La Merde, later revealed to be a pseudonym for chef Christine Flynn, to create visually appealing food porn using junk food. The chef with the dish that received the highest number of likes on Bravo's Instagram account received immunity from elimination. Due to the nature of the challenge, the winner was only informed of their victory during the Judges' Table segment of the Elimination Challenge.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs, separated into three teams, had to cater a black tie bacchanal event called Beefsteak, where the diners forego silverware and eat with their hands. Each team was responsible for making one meat dish, one seafood dish, and two side dishes. The dishes were served to Lakshmi, Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, Beefsteak co-founder and The Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman, Recipe for Deception host Max Silvestri, actor Colin Hanks, Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, and other patrons.
|197||9||"Restaurant Wars, Part 1"||February 4, 2016|
Elimination Challenge (Part 1): The eight remaining chefs competed in Top Chef's traditional Restaurant Wars challenge. The contestants, split into two teams, were responsible for transforming an empty space into a fully functioning pop-up restaurant within 24 hours. However, each team had to execute both lunch and dinner services instead of the typical format. In addition, each person was required to take a turn as the executive chef or front-of-the-house during either service. The judging panel for both parts of the challenge included Lakshmi, Colicchio, Simmons, and restaurateur Bill Chait.
|198||10||"Restaurant Wars, Part 2"||February 11, 2016|
Elimination Challenge (Part 2): Following the lunch services from the previous episode, the teams switched over to their dinner menus.
|199||11||"Hammer Time"||February 18, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs traveled to Oakland for the next round, where they met up with Lakshmi and guest judge MC Hammer. The contestants had to invent their own rapper names, and then create a dish that visually and conceptually expressed their alter egos. The winner received immunity.
Elimination Challenge: The competition moved to its last California location, San Francisco, the setting for the first season of Top Chef. The chefs were asked to make dishes inspired by significant international culinary periods in history. They were given two hours to research their chosen time periods at the San Francisco Public Library. The dishes were served at the Bently Reserve to Lakshmi, Colicchio, Simmons, Joshua Skenes, Mourad Lahlou, Thomas McNaughton, Melissa Perello, Christopher Kostow, James Syhabout, and Top Chef Masters contestant Jonathan Waxman.
|200||12||"Wok This Way"||February 25, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs had to prepare their best chop suey dish for Lakshmi and guest judge Martin Yan. Each contestant was given 30 minutes and their own wok stations. Instead of immunity, the winner received an advantage during the Elimination Challenge.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs had to create a dish that exemplified a concept for a fast casual restaurant. They were each given the assistance of a sous chef, consisting of the six most recently eliminated competitors: Angelina, Chad, Jason, Karen, Phillip, and Wesley. As the winner of the Quickfire, Marjorie chose her own sous chef and assigned her opponents' sous chefs. She chose to work with Angelina and picked Jason for Jeremy, Chad for Carl, Karen for Amar, Wesley for Isaac, and Phillip for Kwame. The dishes were served at The Village event space to 150 diners and potential investors. The judging panel for the challenge included Lakshmi, Colicchio, Blais, and guest judge Adam Fleischman.
|201||13||"Where It All Started"||March 3, 2016|
Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge: The contestants met at the restaurant Commissary, owned by former Top Chef Masters contestant Traci Des Jardins, where they were challenged to make their best piece of toast. Instead of immunity, the winner received a Rational AG oven valued at US$16,000.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs had to create a tribute dish to send-off the restaurant Fleur de Lys, the venue for Top Chef's very first Quickfire Challenge. The dishes were served to 40 VIP guests, including owner and Top Chef Masters contestant Hubert Keller, Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, and Top Chef: San Francisco winner Harold Dieterle.
|202||14||"Magic Hour"||March 10, 2016|
Quickfire Challenge: The three remaining competitors arrived at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the season finale. There, the winner of Last Chance Kitchen, Amar, was reinstated into the competition. At the beginning of the challenge, each chef was dealt a random playing card displaying one of the four suits. Historically, each suit correlated to a specific class in society: spades for nobility, hearts for the clergy, diamonds for merchants, and clubs for peasants. Depending on the card they were dealt, the chefs would have to create a dish using the ingredients available to their particular class. In addition, the chefs with the higher class cards were able to use the items from the lower class pantries. To assist them with cooking, the chefs were paired up with previously eliminated contestants. Marjorie chose Karen, Isaac chose Carl, and Jeremy chose Kwame, leaving Amar with Phillip. The dishes were served to 150 guests, including their guest judge Rick Moonen. The winner received an automatic spot in the finale.
|203||15||"Finale"||March 17, 2016|
Elimination Challenge: The finalists had to create a four-course menu highlighting one specific ingredient per course. The contestants received help from two sous chefs of their choosing and their former mentors. Amar was assisted by Marjorie, Kwame, and Charlie Palmer, while Jeremy was assisted by Angelina, Carl, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The dishes were served head-to-head to a full dining room at Colicchio's restaurant, Craft.
Main article: Top Chef § Last Chance Kitchen
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1||"Winning Out of Losing"||December 3, 2015|
Challenge: The first two eliminated chefs had to create a winning dish using the ingredients from their opponent's losing dish.
|2||"Fresh Veggie Challenge"||December 10, 2015|
Challenge: The chefs had to create a standout dish using one vegetable in its entirety and prepare it in three different ways. At least one of their preparations had to showcase Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix. The amount of food waste the chefs produced from their dishes was also factored into judging.
|3||"Surprise Ingredients!"||December 17, 2015|
Challenge: The chefs were forced to step outside their comfort zones by incorporating exotic ingredients into their dishes. Each contestant had to select two ingredients, which were packaged into mystery boxes, from a display; the chefs only learned about the identity of their ingredients once their designated cooking time started. Garret received tomatillos and crisp broad beans, while Grayson received coconut and Ginkgo nuts.
|4||"Decisions, Decisions, Decisions"||January 7, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs were given 20 seconds to look at a display of various ingredients and conceptualize two different dishes that could be cooked in 20 minutes. Colicchio then selected which of their two ideas each contestant would have to create.
|5||"A Delicious Burger"||January 14, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 15 minutes to craft their best burgers.
|6||"Boring Ingredients, Awesome Dish"||January 21, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 30 minutes to create a tasty dish out of boring and bland ingredients.
|7||"Beef!"||January 28, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 25 minutes to make a hearty beef dish. However, they were only allowed to use their knives for butchering and other prep work during the first five minutes of their allotted cooking time.
|8||"Only One Chef Can Call the Shots"||February 11, 2016|
Challenge: The incoming contestant, Phillip, was told to set the terms of the challenge, including the main ingredient and time allotment. In the end, both chefs had to create a dish with sweetbreads in 20 minutes.
|9||"Teppanyaki Time!"||February 18, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 10 minutes to prepare their ingredients and another 10 minutes to put on an entertaining show at a teppanyaki table.
|10||"Breakfast, Baby!"||February 25, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 15 minutes to create a standout breakfast dish.
|11||"San Francisco Staple"||March 3, 2016|
Challenge: The chefs had 30 minutes to create a dish featuring sourdough. The top two contestants moved on to compete in the Last Chance Kitchen finale.
|12||"Fishy Finale"||March 3, 2016|
Challenge: For their final Last Chance Kitchen challenge, the chefs had 12 minutes to cook any fish dish.