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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Padma Lakshmi Says This Cheftestant Made the “Best First Impression” on Season 20

The Top Chef judge also revealed the alum she wishes had competed on Season 20.

By Shannon Raphael

Though the theme of Bravo’s Top Chef Season 20 is World All-Stars, host/judge Padma Lakshmi got to know the international cheftestants for the first time ever when the cast touched down in London on the March 9 premiere. 

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As a result, she got to learn the chefs’ cooking styles, flavor profiles, and personalities during the first Quickfire and Elimination challenges — and one person in particular stood out immediately.

After Season 20 premiered, Padma appeared on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and revealed that Top Chef Mexico alum Gabriel “Gabri” Rodriguez made the “best first impression” on her in England’s capital city. 

Padma didn’t elaborate on why Gabri was an immediate standout to her, though his performance on the season premiere could shed some light on the matter.

During the local seafood–themed Quickfire challenge, Gabri and his partner, Luciana Berry, made a scallop aguachile with tomato lobster water, and they wowed Padma and the other judges, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.

For the first Elimination Challenge, Gabri faced some obstacles. He decided to make a mextlapique of black truffle beans puree with confit avocado, rainbow chard, and chicken emulsion, but he struggled to find the right ingredients at the grocery store. While the chefs were cooking their dishes, Gabri accidentally spilled water all over Dawn Burrell’s vegetables.

The Olympian said she was “not mad” about the mishap, but Gabri’s misfortune didn’t end there. When he presented his final dish to the judges and dining guests, he realized he forgot to add his protein — the chicken emulsion — to the meal.

Gabri’s water spill and forgotten chicken emulsion certainly made for a strong first impression on the judges, the rest of the cast, and viewers. However, when Padma was asked how she reacted to Gabri forgetting the protein on WWHL, she responded, “I don’t even remember.”

In addition to identifying Gabri as the chef who made the “best first impression,” Padma also revealed that there was one Top Chef alum she had “really been hoping to see” on the London season.

Kwame [Onwuachi],” she said, though she noted that she doesn’t “have anything to do with casting” because she “can’t play favorites.”

You can see more from Padma, Tom, Gail, and the World All-Stars cast on Top Chef Season 20.

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