They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that appears to hold true for the new season of Top Chef.
Bravo’s Emmy-winning reality series returns to the Lone Star state for its 19th season, bringing 15 of the country’s most talented chefs to Houston — the nation’s fourth largest city — for the most prestigious culinary competition on television.
PEOPLE and Food & Wine have a joint exclusive first look at the trailer for the season, which kicks off with a supersized premiere on March 3.
This is the second Top Chef season that has taken place during the ongoing pandemic, but COVID-19 plays a part in the upcoming season in a whole new way.
“I lost my scene of smell and taste,” contestant Jackson Kalb says in the trailer, referencing a common side effect of COVID-19. “I am terrified.”
Each week, the trio will be joined on the judging panel by a former Top Chef winner, finalist, or favorite. Returnees include Nyesha Arrington, Dawn Burrell, Kelsey Barnard Clark, Adrienne Cheatham, Tiffany Derry, Joe Flamm, Gregory Gourdet, Hung Huynh, Stephanie Izard, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Ed Lee, Maria Mazon, Shota Nakajima, Nini Nguyen, Kwame Onwuachi, Sheldon Simeon, Brooke Williamson, and Claudette Zepeda.
A local or national culinary icon will also judge each week. Renowned chefs Daniel Boulud, Wylie Dufresne, Carlotta Flores, Bricia Lopez, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, and Alexander Smalls are slated to give their expertise, while acclaimed Houstonian chefs Ope Amosu, Aaron Bludorn, Irma Galvan, Greg Gatlin, Robert Del Grande, Christine Ha, Trong Nguyen, Hugo Ortega, Monica Pope, Chris Shepherd, Kiran Verma and Chris Williams will also appear.
Food & Wine‘s Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis joins the judges for the final challenge.
As for the new cheftestants, they come from all across the country with a range of culinary experiences and training. The roster includes Ashleigh Shanti (Asheville, North Carolina), Buddha Lo (Brooklyn, New York), Damarr Brown (Chicago, Illinois), Evelyn Garcia (Houston, Texas), Kalb (Los Angeles, California), Jae Jung (New York, New York), Jo Chan (Austin, Texas), Leia Gaccione (Morristown, New Jersey), Luke Kolpin (Seattle, Washington), Monique Feybesse (Vallejo, California), Nick Wallace (Jackson, Mississippi), Robert Hernandez (San Francisco, California), Sam Kang (Brooklyn, New York), Sarah Welch (Detroit, Michigan), and Stephanie Miller (Bismarck, North Dakota).
They’ll be put to a sea of Top Chef‘s iconic challenges — from making space-friendly dishes for former NASA astronauts, feeding Houstonians at an Asian Night Market, and spotlighting Nigerian cuisine to honor Houston being home to the largest Nigerian population in the country, to paying tribute to the state’s female trailblazers, heading out to the Gulf with Colicchio for an unforgettable fishing experience, and seeing if the chef can put their own spin on beloved staples popularized in Houston (like BBQ, biscuits, queso and the classic Tex-Mex original, the fajita).
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The competition’s signature challenge, Restaurant Wars, ups the ante with an open kitchen concept where the chefs must cook for a full dining room of guests, while also catering to an intimate tasting table for the judges.
And Last Chance Kitchen, Top Chef‘s Emmy-winning digital companion series hosted by Colicchio, will be back as well, meaning at least one eliminated chef will have the chance to get back into the game after packing their knives and going.
Season 19 of Top Chef premieres Thursday, March 3 (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.