Southern California chef Amar Santana will return to compete in Bravo’s “Top Chef” World All-Stars series premiering Thursday, March 9 on Bravo.
The Emmy- and James Beard Award-winning show will enter its 20th season this year going entirely abroad for the first time and pitting 16 chefs from “Top Chef” iterations around the globe.
The series was filmed throughout London, with some episodes taking place at iconic locations such as Highclere Castle and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, last fall with the season finale set in Paris to name the World All-Stars champion.
Santana first came to Southern California from New York in 2008 and went on to open Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and Michelin Guide-recognized Vaca, part of the South Coast Plaza restaurant collection, in Costa Mesa with partner Ahmed Labbate.
He first appeared on season 13 “Top Chef: California” as a contestant and finalist seven years ago before returning as one of the rotating guest judges on ‘Top Chef: Portland’ a few years later.
“I remember after judging season 18 of ‘Top Chef’ how I enjoyed it so much, being on the other side instead of running around,” Santana said. “When I was in Portland I told everyone I’m done competing, I’m too old for this.”
But the call to compete was too tempting to pass up and when the time came for Santana to be a competitor on one of the biggest seasons in the show’s history, he had to say yes.
Local chef Amar Santana will be a contestant on the new season of ‘Top Chef’ World All-Stars premiering March 9, 2023. (Photo by: Stephanie Diani/Bravo)
Local chef Amar Santana will be a contestant on the new season of ‘Top Chef’ World All-Stars premiering March 9, 2023. Pictured: (l-r) Tom Goetter, Samuel Albert, Buddha Lo, Sylwia Stachyra, Ali Al Ghzawi, Dawn Burrell, Amar Santana, Charbel Hayek, Victoire Gouloubi, Nicole Gomez — (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)
Local chef Amar Santana will be a contestant on the new season of ‘Top Chef’ World All-Stars premiering March 9, 2023. Pictured: (l-r) Amar Santana, Ali Al Ghzawi — (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)
“I said you know what, let me just give it a shot and see how the old man is gonna pair up against chefs from around the world,” Santana said.
Only four chefs were chosen from the United States and Santana is the only contestant from California. The other contestants from the U.S. include Chef Sara Bradley from Kentucky, Chef Dawn Burrell from Houston and Chef Buddha Lo from New York. Chefs from Lebanon, Jordan, Brazil, France, Germany, Thailand and more will also be competing.
“I always doubt myself, I always think I’m not good enough to compete,” Santana said. “I always put myself down like that, but it gives me the fire to do even better. I was honored they chose me from California.”
For Santana, the opportunity wasn’t just to see how he would hold up against the chefs at his “old” age, but also a chance to learn from chefs with different cultural perspectives on food. And the level of competition made this season particularly hard.
“It’s probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life when it comes to my cooking career,” Santana said. “Getting to meet all these chefs from all around their world, their culture, their cuisine, their style of cooking … so it was not only fun competing but also learning from them.”
Host Padma Lakshmi returns with judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and rotating guest judges from international versions of the show. Episodes will air every Thursday at 9 p.m. and be available the next day on Peacock.
‘Top Chef’ When: Premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 9
Caitlin Antonios | Reporter Caitlin Antonios is a California native and has spent most of her life living in Orange County. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine with a literary journalism and English degree, she attended Columbia University for the Toni Stabile Investigative Journalism program. She spent a year freelancing investigative stories covering education, health and the COVID-19 pandemic.