New ‘Top Chef’ Season 21 Host Kristen Kish Has Us Hungry AND Thirsty

If you’ve ever watched Bravo’s Top Chef and thought, “Man, I sure do love it here, but I wish there was a hot badass queer chef with tattoos who also happens to be a former contestant at the helm telling contestants what to do,” then I have great news for you! Season 21 premiered last week with queer culinary icon Kristen Kish making her debut as the show’s new host, after she was officially named as Padma Lakshmi’s replacement last year.

Kristen and her impeccable ‘fits are no stranger to food-based reality television. She won Season 10 of Top Chef (after battling back from elimination!) and returned as a guest judge multiple times, co-hosted Iron Chef, and starred in Restaurants At the End of the World. She’s long been a fan-favorite thanks to her skills in the kitchen, her relatable personality, and did I mention her face??! I’ll never forget rushing out to get her gorgeous 2017 cookbook, Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques, despite being whatever the opposite of a chef is. When I mentioned this piece to my straight friend (who I promise requested to be identified as such) she said of her and her also straight fiancé, “we’re both a little bit in love with Kristen Kish.”

Kristen’s mass appeal is evident from the moment the latest group of contestants enter the Top Chef kitchen. She stands between Tom and Gail wearing an impeccable black and white outfit that shows off her tatted arms and overall swag. The contestants are all heart-eyes and excitement, but the admiration goes both ways; Kristen is just as thrilled to be on this journey with them.

Once they get through the obligatory “who’s a James Beard chef and who’s worked in a Michelin Star restaurant?” raising of hands, the judges reveal a few changes to this season’s rules including the fact that winning a quickfire challenge no longer comes with immunity. But you ask me, the biggest challenge of the season is going to be managing to cook an edible plate of food while Kristen quite literally stares at you.

screenshot of kristen kish staring at top chef contestants


There’s something about the way she looks into the camera, both smirking and glaring at the same time, that makes me want to watch Top Chef until the end of time … but also turn off the TV immediately because it is TEW MUCH. Like, she said “Chef’s, it’s time to draw knives” and I heard myself say out loud, “I’ll draw your knives…” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN, NIC?! :face-palm:

One of my favorite things about watching Kristen as the host is seeing the genuineness of her emotions. When she and the other judges arrive at the Elimination Challenge, she has to physically shake off the nervous goosebumps she gets because she’s been here before; she knows exactly what these contestants are going through and is nervous for them! Those nerves flip to adorable excitement when the first timer goes off though, and she squeals and dances as the chefs’ dishes are brought out.

screenshot of kristen kish smiling at the top chef contestants

Don’t let that playfulness fool you though, because our iconic host gets serious later in the episode when she announces the first elimination of the season, complete with the infamous “Please pack your knives and go” catchphrase.

So far, I think Kristen is absolutely nailing it! She’s able to bring her expertise as a chef and empathy as a former contestant in a way that makes the role her own rather than turning it into Padma 2.0.

screenshot of kristen kish using a blender


And in case the now extended 75-minute episodes aren’t enough Kish for ya, Bravo also debuted a brand new after show of sorts called The Dish with Kish, where Kristen and a rotation of chef guests join her to discuss the previous episode, cook, and share behind the scenes insights. The first episode features Kristen’s best friend and former Top Chef cheftestant Stephanie Izard. I’m obsessed with the production of the after show because not only does it mean more Kristen, but the fourth wall-breaking aspect lets the audience in on some of the host’s goofier moments.

Top Chef airs Wednesday nights on Bravo with episodes streaming on Peacock the next day. You can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be tuning in to cheer on my current fave (and fellow Blerd) Amanda Turner, and to see just how Kristen Kish destroys me next.

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Nic is a Senior Product Manager at a major Publisher and lives in Astoria, NY. She is way too attached to queer fictional characters and maintains that buying books and reading books are two very different hobbies. When she's not consuming every form of fiction, you can find her dropping it low on the dance floor. You can find Nic on twitter and instagram.

Nic has written 78 articles for us.

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