The wicked-awesome supersized season premiere introduces the 16 chefs from across the country who will be battling it out in Boston. Richard Blais ("Top Chef All-Stars" winner) joins Tom, Padma and Gail at judges table. The chef'testants are immediately thrown into hot water with the series' first ever Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge where one chef is forced to cook for their life to stay in the competition. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must cook and serve a re-imagined version of the first dish they ever remember making, but will this trip down memory lane be a dream come true or a nightmare for the chefs? The challenge plays out at the first ever "Top Chef Food Festival" alongside some of Boston's most prominent culinary stars including Barbara Lynch, Ming Tsai, Lydia Shire, Jasper White, Todd English, Ken Oringer, Jamie Bissonnette, Kristen Kish and Tiffani Faison.
The chefs create a surf-and-turf dish for guest judge Todd English; teams prepare dishes to be served up to Boston police and firemen and judged by guest chef Dante de Magistris.
In a nod to the Boston Tea Party, the cheftestants brace themselves for another Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge where they must use tea to enhance their dishes for guest judge Ming Tsai. The chef with the worst dish must battle against another chef to stay in the competition. Historic Fenway Park hosts its first ever culinary competition in an Elimination Challenge where the chefs must use ballpark snacks to create a fine dining dish that will be served right on the field. Joining the judges are Baseball Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Dennis Eckersley, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy and guest judge Ming Tsai.
For their Quickfire Challenge, the Cheftestants visit the bar where everybody knows your name, Cheers, where they must create a tasty bar snack for special guest judge George Wendt, the actor who played Norm on the hit TV show. Then, Top Chef Masters alum Michael Schlow welcomes the chefs to his Italian restaurant, Via Matta, for the Elimination Challenge where the chefs must work in teams to write and create a three-course Italian menu. The team whose menu is ordered the most wins while everyone else is up for a double elimination! Joining the judges is actress Emmy Rossum, star of Shameless, who throws the chefs for a loop when they must make last minute adjustments to accommodate Emmy's gluten-free diet.
The competition heats up when the chefs cook in head-to-head battles in a Quickfire Challenge with guest judge Jamie Bissonnette, where the victor wins bragging rights and ,000. For the Elimination Challenge, the team of Quickfire Losers gets a chance at redemption as they cook off as a team against the Quickfire Winners. In another head-to-head competition, the chefs strategize the best dishes they can make on a lean military budget with Revolutionary War-themed battles that take place at the historic Watertown Arsenal.
Top Chef alum Tiffani Faison surprises the chefs with a trip to the countryside as well as a test of endurance. The chefs must trek through a cranberry bog in a race to gather this classic New England ingredient to use as the base for their Quickfire Challenge: creating a unique dish highlighting the cranberry. For their Elimination Challenge, the chefs head to historic Plimouth Plantation and must work together to cook a traditional family-style Thanksgiving feast using only cooking tools, methods, and ingredients found in Massachusetts during the 1600s. Descendants of the Mayflower colonists and the native Wampanoag tribe as well as James Beard Award Winner Ken Oringer join the judges at the table for this non-traditional Thanksgiving feast.
The fan-favorite "Restaurant Wars" challenge unfolds. Here, the culinarians must open their own pop-up eateries. In the all-encompassing test, they must create menus and restaurant decor and train the staff. Appearing: Barbara Lynch; Kristen Kish; and Stephanie Cmar.
In another Sudden Death Quickfire, chefs feel the pressure when they must cook chowder for the leading authority on New England chowder, Chef Jasper White. Then, in a monumental mid-season twist, the eliminated chefs from this season are brought back with the potential of changing the competition completely. For the Elimination Challenge, the Top Chef kitchen opens its doors for the first time ever for the ultimate tasting party with Top Chef super fans. In another first, Tom cleans out the shelves and Padma gets into mischief as the judges head to the grocery store to do all the shopping for the chefs' pantries.
Chefs are challenged to create the biggest and tastiest sausage dishes they can concot when New England Patirots football player Rob Gronkowski steps in as guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge. Next up, the chefs must brush up on their reading for a unique Elimination Challenge where their dishes must be inspired by a literary work from a famous New England author including Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Dr. Seuess. As the chefs cook their cusiine to bring fiction to the plate, they hope their dishes don't get lost in translation as the judges are joined by Chef Tony Maws and Clarkson Potter Editor Francis Lam at the Judges' Table.
For their Quickfire Challenge, the chefs get a flashback to their college days when they must prepare a ramen dish judged by "Watch What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen and his college roommate from Boston, Dave Ansel. For the Elimination Challenge, legendary chef Jacques Pepin challenges the chefs to create a dish inspired by the French cooking techniques of the legendary Julia Child.
The chefs get thrown for a loop by a surprise visit from their family members that will serve as their sous chefs in their next Elimination Challenge. With an automatic ticket to the Top Chef finals on the line, the chefs' nearest and dearest must take orders quickly if they are to hold up their end of the meal.
For the last Quickfire challenge in Beantown, the chefs must cook an innovative bean dish. Wylie Dufresne. In the Elimination Challenge, the winner will take home a guaranteed spot in the Finals in Mexico. As the chefs push their culinary boundaries, one will be be left to fight for redemption in "Last Chance Kitchen".
In the first of the three-part finale, the three finalists head to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where they are greeted by head judge Tom Colicchio who invites them to watch the final cook-off of Last Chance Kitchen and learn which eliminated chef will rejoin the competition. Award-winning Mexican chef Enrique Olvera introduces the Quickfire Challenge where the chefs must create a dish highlighting the Mexican ingredient xoconostle, a special type of prickly pear. San Miguel de Allende is a mecca for artists all over the world, and the chefs' creativity is put to the test when they are challenged to create a unique dish inspired by a local artist's work for the Elimination Challenge. Cooking at the famed Instituto Allende, the chefs will have four hours to prepare dishes for an event while their artists complete a new work of art that will be on display. The chef that doesn't translate the artist's vision will have to say "adiós" to the title of Top Chef.
The remaining three chefs take a surprise visit to Purisima de Jalpa, the farm that supplies the top restaurants in the region. For their Quickfire Challenge, the chefs must create two dishes with chocolate: one sweet and one savory. For their last Elimination Challenge before the Finale, the chefs create a six-course progressive menu. Tensions flare when one chef gets the short end of the stick.
The final chefs take an early-morning hot-air balloon ride in the Season 12 finale. They then face off by creating a four-course menu, after which the winner is revealed.