Want to go to all the shooting locations seen on Top Chef: Kentucky? Here’s a list of Louisville and Lexington culinary and tourism destinations where the popular TV visited or mentioned and the Kentucky food they enjoyed.
NOTE: Top Chef’s new season, taped in Kentucky in May and June 2018, aired from Dec. 6, 2018 to March 14, 2019 on BRAVO.
Plan a customized tour with Mint Julep Experiences to see them all! Our experience coordinators can work with groups of all sizes to create a one day or multi-day Kentucky adventure to places seen on the show. Request a custom tour today to get started!
Or join one of our Southern Supper Series progressive dinners! Each culinary tour in 2019 will visit three destinations as seen on Top Chef: Kentucky.
Previews for the show gave us a glimpse into where we’ll see contestants visit this season, what foods they’ll be preparing and which Kentucky chef and celebrities they’ll meet. And as the show was taping around Louisville and Lexington, they were spotted and photos and tips were shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Places Seen On Top Chef
Churchill Downs – In the first episode of Top Chef; Kentucky, contestants visit the iconic horse racing track Churchill Downs where they take part in a quickfire challenge that only allows 2 minutes of knife prep time – inspired by the fastest two minutes in sports: The Kentucky Derby.
Henry Clay – Guests in full Kentucky Derby attire with lavish hats and dresses attended the first elimination challenge at the Henry Clay building in downtown Louisville. Chef stations were set up around a festive party room, Kentucky Derby winning jockey Pat Day was in attendance and Churchill Downs chef David Danielson served as guest judge.
Ali Center – The museum dedicated to Muhammad Ali was mentioned in a Chicago Tribune article and was the location for a challenge judged by Ali’s daughter Laila Ali. Chefs created dishes inspired by famous Ali fights including his first at Freedom Hall in Louisville.
Decca – Posts on social media tagged chef contestants standing outside chef (and former Top Chef contestant) Annie Petry’s restaurant Decca in NuLu when it was filmed. Turns out, it was the site of an elimination challenge focused on beef!
Seelbach Hotel – An elimination challenge in the historic hotel’s Rathskeller included Gatsby-inspired attire and canapes inspired by Prohibition-era cocktails including the Old Fashioned, 12 Mile Limit, Southside Fizz, Whiskey Sour, Gin Rickey, and Last Word.
Whole Foods – The grocery store where chefs had to shop for most challenges is located in St. Matthews.
Top Chef Mansion – The massive $2.7 million home where Top Chef: Kentucky contestants lived during taping in Louisville is located in Prospect just outside the city of Louisville at 5224 Avish Lane. It’s known as The Avish and has 6 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. The home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is more than 20,000 square feet and sits on 21 acres overlooking the Ohio River! Chef planted herb and vegetable garden plots in the yard on the second episode of season 16. The Avish was built for Owsley Brown in 1910, whose father James Graham Brown was the first to bottle bourbon and founder of Brown-Forman, which makes Old Forester, Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve! When his grandson Owsley Brown Frazier passed away in August 2012, the family manor was sold. Several nearby estates were also owned by Brown family members.
Foxhollow Farm – The farm just outside of the city in Crestwood, Kentucky provided a whole cow for an elimination challenge centered around beef and Kentucky ingredients. Foxhollow Farm owner Maggie Keith served as a guest judge.
The Brown Hotel – The historic hotel is mentioned as the origination point for the city’s most famous sandwich, the Hot Brown. Chefs had a quickfire where they cooked their version of a Hot Brown. The Brown Hotel also served as the location for an elimination challenge where chefs created dishes inspired by their mentors. Judges dined in the English Grill restaurant.
Rupp Arena – A massive taping occurred at Rupp Arena in June with thousands of Top Chef fans participating in a challenge judged by Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.
Keeneland – Chefs traveled to Keeneland and visited the Sales Pavilion where they auctioned off high end ingredients for a challenge inspired by their mentors. They returned to Louisville to cook and serve the meal at the Brown Hotel.
OUTSIDE THE CITY
Maker’s Mark Distillery – Maker’s Mark’s Loretto distillery is featured heavily in the second episode of the season. They even created a bourbon specially for Top Chef! Look out for that soon. COO Rob Samuels served as a guest judge on the challenge. The Samuels family has operated the distillery since Maker’s Mark’s inception. On site restaurant Starhill Provisions and chef Newman Miller are also featured.
Lake Cumberland – You’ll see contestants frolicking in the water in previews, Padma’s Instagram page also featured several images enjoying time on the lake.
Freight House – Runner up Sara Bradley’s restaurant in Paducah, Kentucky.
Kentucky Foods On Top Chef
Bourbon – Of course, Kentucky’s native spirit is heavily incorporated into this season of Top Chef! They ventured to Maker’s Mark Distillery in episode 2 for a distillery tour, to dip bottles in red wax and incorporate bourbon into Kentucky cuisine. Previews show bourbon taste tests and more coming later in the season!
Burgoo – Interviews with judges mentioned the Kentucky stew made with at least four meats, which many had never heard of or tasted before. Season 16 contestants got a taste of burgoo at Maker’s Mark when chef in residence and Starhill Provisions executive chef Newman Miller served a family style Kentucky feast that inspired their second elimination challenge.
Benedictine – The classic dip made with cream cheese and cucumber is also mentioned in articles previewing the show and in the second episode.
Hot Brown – Actress Lena Waithe hosted a Quickfire challenge where contestants re-imagined Louisville’s favorite sandwich, the Hot Brown. The dish, an open-faced sandwich made with bread, turkey, cheese sauce and bacon, originated at the historic downtown Louisville hotel in the 1920s and has been a local favorite for nearly a century!
Kentucky Fried Chicken – Possibly the most widely recognized Kentucky dish, fried chicken inspired a blindfold taste test quickfire challenge of herbs and spices. Chefs learned about Colonel Sanders, the original restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky and the historic of KFC. They could only use the herbs and spices they identified to cook their fried chicken dishes.
Ale-8-One – Made in Winchester, Kentucky, this ginger ale-like soda is popular across the state and the South, especially when mixed with bourbon.
Corn – It’s the base of so many great Kentucky things! Bourbon, grits, hoe cakes, cornbread, spoonbread and more all start with corn.
Weisenberger Grits – The Kentucky mill owned and operated for six generations by the Weisenberger family has already been mentioned several times on the show. White and yellow corn grits are stone ground the old fashioned way and a perennial favorite of Southern chefs.
Hoe Cakes – Flat cakes made from cornmeal. Legend has it they’re called hoe cakes because the original method of preparation was in a type of iron pan called a hoe in the 1700s.
Soup Beans – A main course or side dish made from various beans, often pinto beans, and served with cornbread, greens and potatoes.
Spoonbread – A cornmeal based dish that is more like a moist, savory pudding than cornbread.
Chow Chow – A pickled relish made with a combination of various vegetables.
Country Ham – Cured and smoked ham popular in the South.
Transparent Pie – Similar to chess pie or a sugar pie, this Kentucky classic dish is made with cream, sugar and eggs.
Fried Catfish – Often crusted in cornmeal, catfish is a frequent fish for frying in Kentucky.
Mutton – In western Kentucky, mutton and lamb are favorites for smoking for a distinct kind of regional barbecue.
Regional Chefs and Celebrities on Top Chef
Edward Lee – Former Top Chef contestant and possibly Louisville’s most recognized celebrity chef Ed Lee is mentioned in several articles about the show. He has three Louisville restaurants, 610 Magnolia, Milkwood or Whiskey Dry. He served as a guest judge on the Rupp Arena challenge.
Annie Pettry – Former Top Chef contestant Annie Pettry’s NuLu restaurant Decca was the site of an elimination challenge centered around beef. Contestants learned about whole cow butchery from chef Nancy Silverton and famed butcher Darrio Cecchini in the Decca courtyard and then were assigned a cut of beef to use in their dish.
David Danielson – Churchill Downs executive chef David Danielson was a guest judge on the first episode. He is also chef at Old Stone Inn in Simpsonville, Kentucky.
Ouita Michel – James Beard award nominated Kentucky chef with multiple regional restaurants was a guest judge for an elimination challenge and a quickfire where chefs cooked with ingredients they grew in the Top Chef Mansion garden. Her restaurants, Wallace Station, Honeywood, Holly Hill Inn, and more, have made her one of the state’s most beloved chefs. She is mentioned as a mentor and inspiration for contestant Sara Bradley.
Kathy Cary – Louisville chef Kathy Cary of Lilly’s restaurant can be spotted as a guest judge for the episode taped at Maker’s Mark Distillery.
Coach John Calipari – As we mentioned, chefs and judges make a trip to Rupp Arena, the home of the Kentucky Wildcats, for a challenge with guest judge Coach Cal.
Fred Minnick – The bourbon expert, author and Bourbon+ magazine editor will be a guest judge in the second episode according to posts on his social media.
Newman Miller – Executive chef of Starhill Provisions, which is located in Loretto, Kentucky at Maker’s Mark Distillery, is guest judge on the second episode and prepared a Kentucky family style feast featuring a large number of regional dishes.
Rob Samuels – COO of Maker’s Mark and guest judge on episode 2 of Top Chef: Kentucky.
Greg Davis – Maker’s Mark Ambassador and guest judge on episode 2 of Top Chef: Kentucky.
Nic Christiansen – Beverage director of Butchertown Grocery presented the classic Prohibition-era cocktails that inspired an elimination challenge in the Seelbach Hotel.
Maggie Keith – Owner of Foxhollow Farm provided a whole cow for an elimination challenge and served as a guest judge.
Places Top Chef Judges Ate In Kentucky
Royals Hot Chicken – Both Padma Lakshmi and judge Graham Elliott visited the NuLu outpost owned by local chef Ryan Rogers for a taste of hot chicken according to posts on their social media accounts.
Milkwood – Graham Elliott visited chef Ed Lee’s Milkwood for a meal while in town.
Decca – Graham says he was ‘smitten’ with Top Chef alum Annie Pettry’s restaurant in a Chicago Tribune article.
Red Hog – Social media posts tagged Graham at Red Hog, the Louisville butcher shop and restaurant from the team behind Blue Dog Bakery.
Butchertown Grocery – Graham Elliott and Tom Colicchio mentioned the Butchertown restaurant in articles about the show.
Muth’s Candy – Graham also posted from NuLu candy shop Muth’s, an old fashioned shop with classic regional treats.
Feast – Early social media posts by Padma at Feast were Louisville’s first indication that taping had begun in early May. Padma appears to have tried most of the menu and posted about it on her Instagram.
Lueberry Acai – For a break from the heavy Southern dishes, Padma swung by Lueberry for an acai bowl and posted on Instagram.
About the Author – Rachel Nix
Rachel Nix has been Director of Marketing at Mint Julep since 2017. Her extensive bourbon education includes becoming an Executive Bourbon Steward through the Stave & Thief Society and graduating from Woodford Reserve’s Bourbon Academy. She is a Certified Tourism Ambassador and enthusiastic advocate for her adopted hometown of Louisville. When she’s not promoting Mint Julep’s portfolio of southern experiences, she can be found walking her dog or enjoying a drink on a Germantown patio.