Hear Firsthand About The Top Chef Experience

 This season, Bravo’s Top Chef serves up new flavors, sights, and smells as they call Wisconsin home.

Top Chef Contestant Dan Jones has been feeling the love from Wisconsin viewers during the season because of his Wisconsin roots. While he’s competing on home turf, he says it isn’t a walk in the park.

Jones says Top Chef has introduced him to new ingredients and challenges. He recently discovered Wisconsin was a top producer of cranberries. Dan encourages his fellow Wisconsinites to enjoy the vibrant food culture and agricultural diversity that might be in their own backyard.

The most recent episode of Top Chef — Season 21, Episode 3 — was all about cheese. But other products had a spotlight as well, such as ginseng, Door County cherries, and Kikkoman soy sauce.

“Cheftestant” Michelle Wallace, who scored a top spot in the latest challenge, says all she knew about Wisconsin agriculture before Top Chef was that it was the land of beer and cheese. That was just a fraction of her experience thus far in the competition — and she did enjoy Miller High Life. Wallace admits ginseng threw her for a loop in one of the challenges.

Wisconsin is the No. 1 producer of ginseng in the United States. It’s a root traditionally used in Chinese medicine. It has an earthy taste, and Wallace used it successfully. She jokes she probably won’t take that flavor home to her Southern barbecue restaurant.

However, Wallace was impressed and intrigued by the unique cheese she encountered. She uses a lot of cheese in sandwiches but has learned how to elevate a dish with specialty cheeses. Wisconsin makes over 600 types, styles, and flavors of cheese.

When asked what she’s learned about the food culture of Upper Midwest, Wallace says: Wisconsin’s food culture is hardworking with blue-collar roots. It’s about simple ingredients, yet it comes from skillful hands and techniques that start at the farm.

One pair of these skilled hands belongs to Master Cheesemaker Pam Hodgson from Sartori Cheese. Hodgson has found her audience has expanded after her appearance on Top Chef. The latest episode features over a dozen decorated specialty cheeses, including Sartori’s Bellavitano Merlot. Hodgson was a celebrity guest. She says the exposure brought tremendous value. It was also a great plug for Wisconsin’s one-of-a-kind Master Cheesemaker Program.

You can stream the most recent episodes of Top Chef online.