“Top Chef”: Buddha Lo Talks Kristen Kish, the Mistakes on Episode 1 and Which Chefs He's 'Looking Out for'

Top Chef: Wisconsin kicked off its first episode on Wednesday with Kristen Kish as host. Former champ Buddha Lo recaps episode 1

<p>Casey Mathewson; David Moir/Bravo</p> Buddha Lo; Kristen Kish

Casey Mathewson; David Moir/Bravo

Buddha Lo; Kristen Kish

Buddha Lo is a two-time Top Chef winner, executive chef at Hūso in New York City, and a Saratoga Spring Water brand ambassador. He is sharing his thoughts after each episode of Top Chef season 21, set in Wisconsin, offering a unique perspective as a former cheftestant.

Warning: This article contains spoilers.

I’ve missed Top Chef ever since I plated my last dish, and that didn't change after watching the first episode. Ultimately, it’s better we parted because they’d never get me out of there. And I’ve got twins now — so I want to be Top Dad, not Top Chef.

There’s a new crop of talent fighting for the title anyway. Every season of Top Chef is amazing but in Wisconsin, it will be really exciting to see where the challenges go as they dive into the local cuisine and culture.

After watching (and competing in) so many episodes with Padma [Lakshmi]’s voice, hearing Kristen Kish for the first time gave me goosebumps. Everyone knew she had huge shoes to fill, but she did an incredible job.

Related: Top Chef Winner Buddha Lo and Wife Rebekah Pedler Welcome Twin Daughters: 'Let the Fun Begin'

I was most impressed by the amount of talent I saw. Many of the chefs have been James Beard-nominated and even more have worked in a Michelin-starred kitchen. It’s a real eclectic cast they got. A lot of fun personalities as well.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Top Chef season 21, episode 1

David Moir/Bravo

Top Chef season 21, episode 1


There was no QuickFire in this episode — and to be honest, I wasn’t huge on the non-QuickFire for the first challenge. The first one is really fun. I always found it a good chance to utilize a situation that won’t occur later in the game, where no one knows anyone’s cooking skills.

Instead, there was an immediate elimination challenge with the chefs divided into three groups: soup, stuffed pasta and roast chicken. But a loser didn’t go home right away. There was a curveball. They made them do another cook, which happened later on with the bottom three.

Being a former contestant, I recognized a couple of mistakes. Like when Kenny [Nguyen] mentioned he forgot to put his dark meat chicken in the dish. The camera zoomed in right to the chicken, so I don’t think he forgot it, he just didn’t want to put it on because it was raw. Look, I’ve been there before, so it didn’t escape me.

I’m looking out for a few chefs. There’s an Indian chef, Rasika [Venkatesa] — Padma would have loved that. I believe she’s highlighting Tamil cuisine, and that’s really interesting. I didn’t think she did the challenge correctly, but I thought she made a pretty nice looking dish. If that’s what’s to come, I can’t wait to see how she does in the future.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Manny Barella (second from right) won the first challenge of Top Chef season 21, episode 1

David Moir/Bravo

Manny Barella (second from right) won the first challenge of Top Chef season 21, episode 1


Manny [Barella] won for his green pozole in the soup group. Kudos to him. Sometimes in the first challenge, chefs get too in their head on what needs to be done. He did exactly what needed to be done and did it well.

The judges are looking for basic cookery. You can add all of these bells and whistles, but if you don’t do what you’re told, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

<p>David Moir/Bravo</p> Rasika Venkatesa, David Murphy, Kevin D'Andrea on Top Chef season 21 episode 1

David Moir/Bravo

Rasika Venkatesa, David Murphy, Kevin D'Andrea on Top Chef season 21 episode 1


David [Murphy], who had to pack his knives, was his own worst enemy. David found himself in the bottom three for filled pasta, but everything he filled in it was kind of wrong. The proportions were wrong. He said pasta wasn’t his thing. Tom said it in the show, which is one of the things you always hear Tom say, “Not everything is going to be your thing,” which is correct. That’s what Top Chef is about.

It’s actually a very long process to get called onto the show. And during that time, people should be honing their skills and doing things they haven’t done before, or haven’t in a while, because you know you’re going to be asked to do it.

Everyone on the show is an amazing chef, but you don’t want to be sent home for one of the simple things. I would have really liked to see him cook more because he had a great personality.

Top Chef airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

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