'Top Chef' judges
Source: Bravo

Did the 'Top Chef' Season 18 Contestants Pack Their Knives and Go Before the Pandemic?

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Apr. 1 2021, Updated 2:06 p.m. ET

This is *not* an April Fool's Day joke: the knives (and claws) are out once again because Top Chef is returning for Season 18 on April 1st. The popular cooking competition concluded its 17th season in June of 2020, and a new slate of chefs is now battling it out for the title in Portland, Ore. 

Host Padma Lakshmi and judges Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio are all back, but most everything else has changed. 

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Top Chef Season 18 will feature new rules, guest judges, and safety measures. Read on to find out when the show filmed, and to learn more about why it will be far different than any other season. 

topchefportland
Source: Bravo
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When was 'Top Chef' Season 18 filmed?

In addition to being historic as one of the longest-running cooking competitions on the air, Top Chef Season 18 is breaking new ground in other ways. It was filmed entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Top Chef judges, contestants, and crew members filmed the show in Oregon in September and October of 2020.

At the time, wildfires were raging across the state, which added another set of hurdles to an already-difficult enterprise. 

'Top Chef' Season 18 complied with COVID-19 guidelines — here's what changed.

One of the reasons for the longevity of Top Chef has been consistency; each season, viewers look forward to seeing Quickfires, on-location elimination challenges, and the Restaurant Wars episode. 

However, because of the pandemic, all of those aforementioned elements have changed in Season 18. 

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When the cast and crew arrived in Portland, they created a bubble — they went back and forth between the set and where they were living. The judges stayed in Airbnbs, while the 15 chefs stayed in one hotel together (which hosted no other guests). 

The COVID bubble also included a set of ex-contestants, who served as diners throughout the season. These guests are Richard Blais, Tiffany Derry, Gregory Gourdet, Melissa King, Edward Lee, Nina Compton, Kwame Onwuachi, Edward Lee, Carrie Baird, Kristen Kish, Amar Santana, Brooke Williamson, and Dale Talde.

Instead of going to various different locations for elimination challenges, they cast and crew shot on set or at a convention center. 

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topchefseason
Source: Bravo

The kitchen stations on set were more distanced as well, and the chefs weren't allowed to share ingredients like they could in the past. Instead, each contestant was given a set of spices to work with (so don't expect to see those epic pantry fights).

The judges were spaced out during deliberations at a U-shaped table. They weren't able to share food, and everyone wore masks unless they were eating or cooking.

Similarly, Padma didn't walk around to the chefs' stations during the Quickfire challenges. 

As for Restaurant Week, it is still happening on Season 18. Instead of having the chefs run a mock eatery in teams, they're creating a tasting menu at micro-restaurants. 

Padma told The Deadline Podcast that nobody got sick during filming. 

Top Chef airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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