Kristen Kish
David Moir—Bravo/Getty Images

Replacing Top Chef’s host and judge Padma Lakshmi after 17 years was going to be near impossible. Lakshmi not only brought expertise to her role on the Emmy-winning culinary-competition series, but also fought behind the scenes for a more diverse array of contestants to expose the show’s audience to non-Eurocentric cuisines. Not just anyone can utter “Please pack your knives and go” with Lakshmi’s authority.

The only evident possible replacement to join Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons at the judges’ table was Kristen Kish, who won Season 10 of Top Chef and has spent the decade since opening the much hyped Arlo Grey in Austin, publishing a cookbook, and hosting food shows. Kish, a gay Korean adoptee who grew up in Michigan, represents the next wave of celebrity chefs. Her style is a mashup of her lived experiences: Arlo Grey features both a pasta dish inspired by the Hamburger Helper of her Midwestern childhood and a spray-painted mural of a favorite book, The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo. Kish will put her imprint on the show’s 21st season, filming in Wisconsin.

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