Hello Wisconsin – “Top Chef” Season Kicks Off

Milwaukee rolled out the red carpet for the March 20 season premiere of Top Chef: Wisconsin, the popular cooking-competition series that filmed its 21st season in Wisconsin last summer. 

A gala was held to mark the event at the expansive Discovery World – a science and technology museum overlooking Lake Michigan – where the show’s host, judges, journalists and several of the contestants gathered to celebrate the season premiere. Guests were treated to culinary delights prepared by Bartolotta Restaurants, attended a Q&A panel with Top Chef judges and viewed the first episode of the new season.

The competition consisted of 15 contestants vying for a $250,000 prize. Of those 15, only one is a Wisconsin chef: Dan Jacobs of Milwaukee. As the series unfolds, Door County viewers have extra reason to wish Jacobs success – he started his cooking career in 1997 at The Cookery in Fish Creek, and also worked at the Inn at Cedar Crossing in Sturgeon Bay. Originally from Chicago, Jacobs returned home for several years to sharpen his cooking skills before moving to Milwaukee where he co-founded DanDan, a Chinese-American restaurant with midwestern influences. 

Top Chef: Wisconsin was filmed primarily in Milwaukee and Madison over the course of six weeks last summer. While the contestants did not make it to Door County, they were shown a Door County-style fish boil before having to create their own, and were also expected to showcase their culinary versatility with Door County cherries.

For only the second time since the show’s inception, the competition was held at a midwestern location (Chicago was the setting for Top Chef season four). Wisconsin was selected after many years of lobbying by local chefs, restaurant owners, food producers and tourism organizations including Destination Door County (DDC) – a co-sponsor of the gala. DDC chief communications officer Jon Jarosh attended the event along with senior media relations manager Jen Rogers. 

“We enjoyed being able to talk about Door County at the March 20 premiere event in Milwaukee and also celebrate the work it took from a lot of people to make the show a reality here in Wisconsin,” Jarosh said. DDC will host its own Top Chef watch party on May 22. Details on the event will be announced in April.