Top Chef Season 21: Exploring All Shooting Locations

The 21st season of the ‘Top Chef’ reality television cooking series, ‘Top Chef: Wisconsin,’ reintroduces us to former contestant and ‘Top Chef’ winner Kristen Kish, as a judge alongside Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. Taking us through the farms and cityscapes of the country’s Dairyland, the showrunners acknowledge the state’s love for cheese, and we get to see a number of dishes with a cheesy twist and much more. It featured a roster of 15 ethnically diverse contestants hailing from various backgrounds coming together in exciting cookoffs, united in their burning passion for being the top chef. Produced by Magical Elves on Bravo, the show’s new backdrops may raise questions regarding the filming sites employed for the season.

Top Chef Season 21 Filming Locations

‘Top Chef: Wisconsin’ was shot on location around sites in Madison, Milwaukee, and Door County in Wisconsin. Prior to filming the season, the production team of the show visited 56 potential shooting locations, including local restaurants and venues, under the guidance of the communications director for Travel Wisconsin. Principal photography for the series began in August 2023 and was wrapped up by mid-September 2023.

The newcomer judge seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed her time in Wisconsin and visited restaurants and ice cream joints with her co-hosts. “Milwaukee & Madison were great but doing it with these two made it the best. Couldn’t have dreamt up a better way to spend nearly 7 weeks away from home,” wrote Kristen about Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons in an Instagram post. Let us take a closer look at filming locations chosen for the 21st season of ‘Top Chef.’

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The largest city in the state of Wisconsin, ‘Milwaukee’ became a major filming destination for ‘Top Chef: Wisconsin.’ Having proximity to the fertile farmlands of Wisconsin, its rich culinary scene is known for farm-to-table restaurants, historical brewing traditions, retro Supper Clubs, and cultural festivals. The film crew made use of a number of restaurants and their kitchens for shooting episodes in Milwaukee. One of these included the Three Brothers Restaurant on 2414 South Saint Clair Street, known for its Serbian food. Former ‘Top Chef’ host Padma Lakshmi has also carried out shooting in the city for ‘Taste the Nation,’ which showed off Milwaukee’s German immigrant cuisine.

Madison, Wisconsin

The production team ventured to the city of Madison and, according to reports, filmed at least two of its episodes in the state capital. The most notable filming site in the city was the Dane County Farmers Market on Capitol Square, which is known for providing some of the best produce in the nation, straight from the farmers. As a part of the episode’s challenge, contestants had to acquire fresh ingredients from the market to create their dishes. This ended up creating a fast-forwarded version of the farm-to-table dining experience, with the chefs running between the farmer’s market and their cooking stations. Recognized as the largest producer-only market in the nation, the farmer’s market draws crowds numbering upward of 20,000 when it opens on Saturdays in spring.

Further filming took place at the Tornado Steak House on 116 South Hamilton Street, and the L’Etoile Restaurant on 1 South Pinckney Street. Itaru Nagano, who was L’Etoile’s chef de cuisine, served as a local judge for the season. The award-winning chef didn’t like being critical of the contestants, saying, “Cooking is super personal to me, so I don’t like criticizing that much about other people’s food. I tried to be very fair, but I didn’t want to be too harsh on people. But, a lot of it was like … ‘What is this?'”

Door County, Wisconsin

Located in northeastern Wisconsin, the picturesque peninsula of Door County can be seen in the 21st season of ‘Top Chef.’ Often called the Cherry Capital of the World, Door County is home to a thriving food and culture scene that is beautifully explored in the show’s episodes. “Wisconsin is having a moment,” said Diana Schmedeman, a branded content and integrations producer with Magical Elves. “You’re hearing more and more about Wisconsin all the time … the dairy culture, the James Beard Award-winning chefs. There’s so much more in the culinary world that is happening. … It’s perfect timing.”

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