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‘Top Chef’ Season 18 Kicks Off in Portland With the Looming Realities of Coronavirus: Watch (Exclusive)

Gail Simmons Padma Lakshmi Tom Colicchio Top Chef Portland Season 18 Cold Open
Gail Simmons, Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio of 'Top Chef' season 18.Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Time to sharpen your knives. Top Chef is back with its 18th season taking place in Portland, Oregon, as a whole new batch of cheftestants compete, but this time, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In Us Weekly‘s exclusive sneak peek from the premiere’s cold open, you can see how each contestant – consisting of executive chefs and restaurant owners – has had to deal with the realities of how the food industry has been affected over the past year.

Related: 'Top Chef' Winners: Where Are They Now?

Host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio and judge Gail Simmons are all returning. Joining them will be a collection of past winners, finalists and favorites to form a rotating judging and dining panel, which includes Richard Blais, Carrie Baird, Nina Compton, Tiffany Derry, Gregory Gourdet, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Edward Lee, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana, Dale Talde and Brooke Williamson.

Top Chef Portland Season 18 Cold Open
Richard Blais, Gregory Gourdet, Dale Talde, Melissa King, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, Kwame Onwuachi, Amar Santana and Tom Colicchio of ‘Top Chef’ season 18. David Moir/Bravo

Meanwhile, the chefs will face challenges like working with foraged mushrooms, picking produce at the famous Hood River Fruit Loop and cooking with native and popular ingredients of Oregon.

This season also features appearances by famed chefs José Andrés, Massimo Bottura, Gabriel Rucker and Alice Waters, as well as Portlandia stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein who stop by for a Quickfire Challenge.

Related: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ali Wong and More Stars Who Love Padma Lakshmi

The Emmy-winning digital spinoff, Last Chance Kitchen, hosted by Colicchio, also returns as eliminated contestants go head-to-head to try to cook their way back into the competition.

Top Chef: Portland kicks off with a supersized episode airing on Bravo Thursday, April 1, at 8 p.m. ET.

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