Food-obsessed Houstonians will be watching the new season of Top Chef with even more interest than normal. The cast of the show's 18th season includes two Houston chefs — Sasha Grumman and Dawn Burrell — Bravo announced.
Set in Portland, Oregon, the new season will debut on Thursday, April 1 at 7 pm. In all, 15 chefs will compete for the title. Both Houston chefs bring impressive resumes to the competition.
A former Olympic track and field athlete, Burrell worked for Monica Pope and as a sous chef at Uchiko before leading the kitchen at Kulture. She earned a James Beard semifinalist nomination in 2020 for her work at the downtown restaurant, where she explored the diversity of African American culinary traditions. Last week, Burrell announced that she'd partnered with Lucille's chef-owner Chris Williams to open Late August, a new restaurant devoted to "exploring the soul of Afro-Asian flavors."
Grumman came to Houston in 2019 to open Rosalie Italian Soul for Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino. She also worked for Cosentino at Cockscomb in San Francisco; prior to moving to Houston she spent a year in Austin as the chef de cuisine at the acclaimed Launderette restaurant. Since being furloughed from Rosalie at the start of the pandemic, Grumman has launched the Fierce Chef Alimentari which sells focaccia, cinnamon rolls, and other goods.
The cast also includes another notable Texan, Austin chef Gabe Erales, who earned best new restaurant recognition from publications such as Esquire and Texas Monthly for his work at Comedor. Erales parted ways with the Mexican-inspired restaurant in December; his bio on the Bravo website touts a new restaurant that will be announced soon.
Host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons will be joined by an array of Top Chef alumni, including Richard Blais, Carrie Baird, Nina Compton, Tiffany Derry, Gregory Gourdet, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Edward Lee, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana, Dale Talde , and Brooke Williamson. In addition, expect appearances by culinary celebrities such as José Andrés, Massimo Bottura, Gabriel Rucker, and Alice Waters, as well as Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.
The chefs compete in a variety of challenges, including one that celebrates Portland's Pan-African cuisine, another that feeds frontline workers, and a surf and turf elimination challenge honoring the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The famed "Restaurant Wars" episode will feature both teams creating a seven-course tasting menu "that rivals the best in the world."
How will the Texas chefs fare? We'll have to tune in to find out who packs their knives and who becomes Top Chef. Catch a glimpse of all three Texans by watching this preview on the Bravo website.