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Everything we know about the prizes Top Chef winners receive

EACH season, dozens of the nation’s best chefs come together to compete in the hit Bravo reality cooking competition show.

Top Chef first premiered on March 8, 2006, and after more than 300 episodes, multiple spin-offs, and over a dozen international adaptations, fans are curious about what types of prizes the show’s winners receive.


Top Chef’s season 20, episode 11, titled Battle of the Wellingtons, shows, from left to right, judges Kirk Westaway, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail SimmonsCredit: Getty

What prize do Top Chef winners get?

The winner of each season of Top Chef receives a hefty cash prize.

Top Chef uses an elimination format to narrow down the number of contestants.

Each season typically starts with anywhere from 12 to 19 contestants, who participate in two cooking challenges in every episode.

The first of the two challenges is the Quickfire Challenge, which requires each chef to cook a dish that meets certain requirements, like using a specific ingredient or having a particular flavor.

In some cases, the Quickfire Challenge may not even require chefs to cook, but it is always culinary-related.

For instance, chefs may be required to participate in a blind taste-testing contest.

Winners from the Quickfire Challenge are typically granted immunity from elimination, an additional benefit in the upcoming Elimination Challenge, or another prize.

The show’s Elimination Challenge is exactly what it sounds like.

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The chefs are required to create a complex dish – or even a full meal – and present their dish or dishes to the Judges’ Table.

One or more chefs are then eliminated and then asked to “pack [their] knives and go.”

In the show’s first five seasons, the monetary prize was $100,000.

Winners from the show’s sixth, seventh, and ninth through 16th seasons won $125,000.

The winner of season eight won $200,000.

From season 17 on, the winner of Top Chef receives $250,000.

Each season also features a fan vote to determine the season’s Fan Favorite contestant, who wins an additional $10,000 prize.

Who are the Top Chef winners so far?

In the show’s 20-season history, there have been 19 winners.

Harold Dieterle was officially crowned as the first winner of Top Chef in 2006, after beating out fellow contestants in Top Chef: San Francisco.

One contestant, Kah-wai Lo, known professionally as Buddha Lo, famously won both Top Chef: Houston, the show’s 19th season, and Top Chef: World All-Stars, the show’s 20th season.

Top Chef winners from each season are listed below.

  • Season One – Top Chef: San Francisco Winner: Harold Dieterle
  • Season Two – Top Chef: Los Angeles Winner: Ilan Hall
  • Season Three – Top Chef: Miami Winner: Hung Huynh
  • Season Four – Top Chef: Chicago Winner: Stephanie Izard
  • Season Five – Top Chef: New York Winner: Hosea Rosenberg
  • Season Six – Top Chef: Las Vegas Winner: Michael Voltaggio
  • Season Seven – Top Chef: D.C. Winner: Kevin Sbraga
  • Season Eight – Top Chef: All-Stars Winner: Richard Blais
  • Season Nine – Top Chef: Texas Winner: Paul Qui
  • Season 10 – Top Chef: Seattle Winner: Kristen Kish
  • Season 11 – Top Chef: New Orleans Winner: Nicholas Elmi
  • Season 12 – Top Chef: Boston Winner: Mei Lin
  • Season 13 – Top Chef: California Winner: Jeremy Ford
  • Season 14 – Top Chef: Charleston Winner: Brooke Williamson
  • Season 15 – Top Chef: Colorado Winner: Joe Flamm
  • Season 16 – Top Chef: Kentucky Winner: Kelsey Barnard Clark
  • Season 17 – Top Chef: All-Stars L.A. Winner: Melissa King
  • Season 18 – Top Chef: Portland Winner: Gabe Erales
  • Season 19 – Top Chef: Houston Winner: Buddha Lo
  • Season 20 – Top Chef: World All-Stars Winner: Buddha Lo

The show’s 21st season is based in Wisconsin, with chefs set to compete in both Madison and Milwaukee.

Top Chef's 19th season and 13th episode, Cactus Makes Perfect, shows, from left to right, Buddha Lo, Tom Colicchio, and Kristen Kish discussing a potential dish


Top Chef’s 19th season and 13th episode, Cactus Makes Perfect, shows, from left to right, Buddha Lo, Tom Colicchio, and Kristen Kish discussing a potential dishCredit: Getty

How to watch Top Chef?

Top Chef is an American reality competition TV series.

Since the show’s inception in 2006, it has aired regularly on Bravo.

Viewers can also link their TV provider to stream full episodes and watch new episodes live on Bravo’s website.

Fans hoping to watch the show’s upcoming season have some time to catch up on the first 20 seasons.

Top Chef’s 21st season has yet to be released, but it will likely premiere in mid-2024.

The show’s 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th seasons aired annually between March or April and June or July.

Top Chef’s previous seasons were also broadcast on Thursday nights, starting around 8 or 9 pm ET.

For cable cutters, the show is also available on multiple streaming platforms.

Netflix offers subscribers access to the show’s sixth and 15th seasons.

NBC’s Peacock offers access to all 20 seasons of the hit cooking show, along with select spin-offs, too.

When Top Chef’s 21st season premieres, new episodes will be available to stream the following day after airing live.

After announcing her departure ahead of season 21, Padma Lakshmi, the show’s longtime host, is set to be replaced by Top Chef: Seattle winner Kristen Kish.

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