‘Top Chef’ starts now: Here’s where to watch the premiere of the Kentucky season

For the first challenge, the judges will include Churchill Downs executive chef David Danielson, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot, shown on the set of “Top Chef” Kentucky with bourbon barrels in the background.
For the first challenge, the judges will include Churchill Downs executive chef David Danielson, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot, shown on the set of “Top Chef” Kentucky with bourbon barrels in the background. Michael Hickey/Bravo

The Kentucky season of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” debuts Thursday at 9 p.m. and several local places are having watch parties.

The show announced last spring that they would come to Kentucky to film the 16th season and foodies have been hungry for their first taste of the Bluegrass flavor ever since. They set up a Facebook group, Top Chef Kentucky, to share tidbits. As the season began filming in May, fans in Louisville and Lexington eagerly shared sightings of cheftestants dashing around Whole Foods stores buying ingredients.

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When glamorous host Padma Lakshmi began sharing her Kentucky dining adventures on social media, she was inundated with suggestions for where to go next.

As the show set up audiences for challenges, chatter about who was going/couldn’t go/was dying to go to various venues. One woman on Facebook bemoaned buying a flapper-style dress only to miss the taping; others eagerly let slip that they’d made the cut for Restaurant Wars.

The buzz is only a sample of what Kentucky tourism officials are anticipating once the season begins.

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Commissioner Kristen Branscum with the Kentucky Department of Tourism said she hopes everyone watches and says “I’m missing out!” and makes plans to come to Kentucky. Where will she be watching?

At the Brown Theatre in Louisville, where she and Louisville chef Annie Pettry will host a Q&A session afterward. The doors open at 8:30 p.m. and it’s free. They also will have pieces of the set there for you to take photos with.

But Branscum is thinking big-picture, too. After every episode airs, will post episode-specific itineraries, so that fans can immediately plan trips to Louisville, to Lexington, to Lake Cumberland, to anywhere in Kentucky that is mentioned.

“We’ll have a full recap, and ‘as seen here’ trips so you can visit Churchill Downs,” she said. “And we even want to get down in the weeds ... If you see one of them drinking an Ale 8 in the background, we want to tell you how to get one. … Everything you can possibly do, drink, or eat in Kentucky we want you to have a chance to do.”

Those talented Kentuckians will include contestant Sara Bradley of Freight House restaurant in Paducah, but also many more who will appear as judges, as featured guests, and even the thousands who made it to tapings. One of the most fun things for many Kentuckians will be watching for their friends and neighbors (or even themselves, if they were lucky) to wander by in the background.

If you want to make a party of the premiere, here are several places to check out:

West Sixth Brewing, 501 West Sixth Street, is hosting a party from 8 to 11 p.m. There will be beer and food specials and prizes.

J Render’s Southern Table & Bar, 3191 Beaumont Centre Circle, is hosting a party from 9 to 10 p.m. with a new appetizer, the J. Render’s Original Chicken Fried Pork Wing, plus smoked baby back ribs fried like chicken and drizzled with an apple pepper glaze. For drinks, there will be happy hour prices all during the show: half-price draft beer and wine by the glass, $1 off cocktails and bottled beer and half-price select apps.

Sidebar Grill, 147 North Limestone, will have a viewing party with specials including Kentucky burgoo, hot browns, wings with bourbon barbecue sauce. Get a basket of wings and fries and a shot of bourbon for $14. All beer will be happy hour prices during the show.

Louie’s Wine Dive, 854 East High Street, will host a viewing party from 8 to 10 p.m. with a special menu from chef Carrie Arps including Kentucky bourbon balls and more, including deviled eggs, fried chicken wings with cabernet chipotle sauce, bread pudding, and beer cheese. There will be wine and drink deals, too. And the show will air on the large projection screen in the private “barrel room.”

The Stave, 5711 McCracken Pike in Versailles, will host a watch party with curated bourbon flights and a dinner special from chef Jon Sanning inspired by Kentucky cuisine. TVs will be on starting at 7 p.m. Vegetarian options, too.