Sharpen your knives! Top Chef‘s new season is here, and they’ve raised the bar—all the way up to the Rockies.
PEOPLE caught up with host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Graham Elliot ahead of Thursday night’s season 15 premiere, where a new crew of cheftestants go head-to-head in Colorado.
“It’s very different than anywhere we’ve ever shot before,” Simmons said. “We’ve mainly shot in major cities, whether it’s Charleston, New Orleans, Miami, New York or L.A. But to shoot a whole season in Colorado, the entire season is really shot outdoors. In a way we’ve never done that before, and the challenges are that much more grandiose and beautiful with locations that were just breathtaking.”
Colorado’s flair brought forth distinct challenges from a Denver omelette, to contestants showing their culinary prowess through “Rocky Mountain oysters”—which, in case you didn’t know, are buffalo testicles. “I wasn’t there that day, so I didn’t have to try it but I heard it was not good. Like some of them poached them, sliced them and fried them at least—but others decided to puree them. It was pretty funny,” Elliot laughed.
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The show travels to Denver, Boulder, Telluride, and Aspen where cheftestants have to keep snow and altitude in mind—on top of everything else at stake. “There’s even things like baking in this season…that with the altitude is so much harder,” Simmons said. Fans can expect cuisine experts from the mountain state to be called in, of course, to help them out.
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But no matter the landscape, the show has continued to be a hit for over a decade—which Lakshmi credits, in part, to its family-friendly elements. “It is one of the few things you can watch with your kids! You know I wouldn’t have known to say that a few years ago, but my daughter and I started rewatching Top Chef and other than sports or music—even that’s risky with profanity—you don’t have much you can do together.”
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The new season of Top Chef premieres Thursday, December 7, at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.