About the Host and Judges
Emmy-nominated Padma Lakshmi is internationally known as an actress, food expert, model, and The New York Times best-selling author, as well as the recipient of the 2016 NECO Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Padma also serves as host and executive producer of Bravo’s Emmy award-winning Top Chef, currently in its 16th season.
Lakshmi was born in India and grew up in America. She graduated from Clark University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts and American Literature. Known as India’s first supermodel, she began her career as a fashion model, working in Europe and the United States.
Lakshmi established herself as a food expert early in her career, having hosted two successful cooking shows and writing the best-selling Easy Exotic, which won the “Best First Book” award at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. She followed this success with the publication of her second cookbook, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, which has over 150 recipes from around the world alongside intriguing personal essays. In 2016, She released her food memoir, The New York Times best-selling Love, Loss and What We Ate, followed shortly thereafter by The Encyclopedia of Spices & Herbs.
In addition to her food writing, Lakshmi has also contributed to such magazines as Vogue, Gourmet and both British and American Harper's Bazaar, as well as a syndicated column on fashion and food for The New York Times. For the Food Network, Lakshmi hosted Padma’s Passport, where she cooked diverse cuisine from around the world. She also hosted Planet Food, a documentary series on the Food Network and broadcast worldwide on the Discovery Channel. Padma was nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as host and judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition Show. Other television credits include co-hosting Rai Television's Domenica In, Italy’s highest-rated morning news program.
In 2009, Lakshmi co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America alongside world-renowned Advanced Gynecological Surgeon Tamer Seckin, MD. After suffering from the disease for decades herself, she has been able to make amazing strides with the foundation, like launching the first interdisciplinary research facility in the country for Gynopathology as a joint project between Harvard Medical School and MIT, where she gave the keynote address at the Center’s opening in December 2009. Her efforts were recently recognized on the floor of the New York State Senate, where she succeeded in passing a bill related to teen health initiatives. The organization’s ENPOWR program has currently educated over 15,000 students about endometriosis in high schools across the state of New York. In addition to these projects, Lakshmi is a savvy businesswoman with multiple companies of her own. Her debut home décor line, The Padma Collection, hit Bloomingdale’s stores nationwide with tabletop dishware, stemware and hand-blown glass décor pieces. She also created Padma’s Easy Exotic, a collection of culinary products ranging from frozen organic foods, fine teas, and natural spice blends, to hard goods.
One of the culinary world's most celebrated figures, Tom Colicchio returns once again as lead judge for Bravo's 15th season of the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning culinary series Top Chef, and also serves as mentor to the competing chefs on the series, guiding them through their various challenges. He also hosts BravoTV.com’s Emmy-Winning Digital Companion Video Series Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen. Colicchio is also the chef and owner of Crafted Hospitality, which currently includes New York’s Craft, Riverpark and Temple Court; Los Angeles’ Craft Los Angeles; and Las Vegas’ Heritage Steak and Craftsteak.
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Tom made his New York cooking debut at prominent New York restaurants including The Quilted Giraffe, Gotham Bar & Grill and Gramercy Tavern before opening Craft in 2001. Outside of his fine dining restaurants, Colicchio opened ‘Wichcraft – a sandwich and salad fast casual concept rooted in the same food and hospitality philosophies as Craft – in New York City in 2003. Colicchio has published Think Like a Chef (2000), which won The James Beard Foundation "KitchenAid" Cookbook Award in May 2001; Craft of Cooking (2003); and a sandwich book inspired by 'wichcraft (2009). In May 2010, Tom was awarded The James Beard Foundation's coveted "Outstanding Chef" award, the culmination of his 30 years of hard work in the restaurant industry.
Colicchio appears in and served as executive producer on A Place at the Table, Participant Media's documentary about food insecurity in America, produced and directed by his wife, Lori Silverbush and by Kristi Jacobson. “A Place at the Table,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was released by Magnolia Pictures in 2013, has become the launchpad for a national movement centered on ending hunger in the United States. In an effort to broaden his long-standing social and political activism, Colicchio co-founded Food Policy Action in 2012 in collaboration with national food policy leaders, in order to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming. He has also been an outspoken voice on issues like GMO labeling and the use of antibiotics in food sources, and he continues to lobby for better anti-hunger policies in America.
Colicchio and his restaurants give back to the community by serving on the boards of Children of Bellevue, City Harvest, Wholesome Wave and Food Policy Action. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Lori Silverbush, and three sons. When he's not in the kitchen, Tom can be found tending to his garden on the North Fork of Long Island, enjoying a day of fishing or playing guitar.
Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, food writer and dynamic television personality. Since Top Chef’s inception in 2006, Gail has lent her extensive expertise as a permanent judge on the Emmy-winning series, currently in its 15th season. She also serves as a judge on Universal Kids’ Top Chef Jr. and was the head critic on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and host of Top Chef Just Desserts. She was also co-host of The Feed, which aired in 2014 on FYI. Simmons first cookbook, Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating, was released by Grand Central Publishing in October 2017. It features recipes inspired by Gail’s world travels—all made with accessible ingredients and with smart, simple techniques for successful family meals and easy entertaining.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Simmons moved to New York City in 1999 to attend culinary school at what is now the Institute of Culinary Education. She then trained in the kitchens of legendary Le Cirque 2000 and groundbreaking Vong restaurants, and worked as the assistant to Vogue magazine’s esteemed food critic, Jeffrey Steingarten. Throughout her career, Gail has contributed to several cookbooks, including It Must’ve Been Something I Ate by Steingarten, Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City and The New American Chef, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. Gail’s first book, a memoir titled Talking With My Mouth Full, was published by Hyperion in February 2012.
In addition to her work on Top Chef, Simmons makes frequent television appearances on NBC’s TODAY, ABC’s Good Morning America, and Fox & Friends, among others. She is regularly featured in such publications as New York magazine, Travel + Leisure, GQ, People, Entertainment Weekly, Los Angeles Times, and was named the #1 Reality TV Judge in America by the New York Post. Along with her annual appearance at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, she makes regular appearances at the nation’s foremost culinary festivals, including the Austin Food & Wine Festival and South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
In February 2013, Simmons was appointed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Babson College, a mentoring role where she works with student entrepreneurs, helping them develop food-related social enterprises. In April 2016, she received the Award of Excellence by Spoons Across America, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children about the benefits of healthy eating. She is an active board member and supporter of City Harvest, Hot Bread Kitchen, Common Threads, and the Institute of Culinary Education. Simmons currently lives in New York City with her husband, Jeremy and daughter, Dahlia Rae.
Graham Elliot, a critically acclaimed chef, restaurateur and television personality, is one of the most recognized faces cooking in America today. Graham, a self-proclaimed "Navy brat" who has traveled the world and all fifty US states, has accrued many prestigious accolades including multiple James Beard Foundation Nominations. Elliot serves as judge on Bravo’s Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series Top Chef alongside Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. He is also the host and star of Bravo’s digital series Going Off the Menu.
Before returning to the Top Chef franchise where he appeared on two seasons of Top Chef Masters, Graham spent 10 seasons with MasterChef and MasterChef Jr. As a life-long baseball enthusiast, Major League Baseball has recently tapped him to be the host of their MLB Grub Tour as well as their Culinary Correspondent. At age 27, Elliot became the youngest four-star chef to be named in any major U.S. city and was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2004. In May of 2008, he opened his eponymous restaurant, Graham Elliot, which went on to become one of only 15 restaurants in the U.S. to be awarded two Michelin stars. Elliot returned to Lollapalooza in 2017 as the culinary director, an honor he’s held for the past decade. He is also gearing up to launch his first ever restaurant project in Asia, Coast in the upcoming MGM Cotai. In addition, he’ll also be unveiling his new concept, Gideon Sweet on the historic Randolph street in West Loop. Elliot resides full time in Chicago with his wife Allie and his three boys, Mylo, Conrad and Jedediah.