The Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail

How did Top Chef spend two months in Kentucky and leave without hosting a chili bun shootout amongst the cooks?

We faithfully watched each week as the contestants waded into battle in the Top Chef kitchen knowing full well that a chili bun challenge was coming, we just didn’t know when.

Last week the cooks warred in the Bluegrass for the final time before heading off to China(?!) for the grand finale. And they did so without ever approaching one of the most canonical dishes in the great state of Kentucky: chili buns.

There are not a lot of iconic foods in Kentucky. Burgoo, Benedictine spread, soup beans, hot brown sandwiches, fried chicken…the list is short but to omit chili buns is to exhibit an alarming lack of knowledge on the foodways of the commonwealth.

Did Magical Elves (Top Chef’s production company) fail to hire a proper fixer during the run up to the filming?

We would’ve loved to have stumbled upon Padma Lakshmi in a rented Ford pickup truck at a Dairy bar in Letcher County.

Did Tom Colicchio not have enough sense to skulk through the pool halls of London, Corbin, and Williamsburg in search of the ne plus ultra of chili buns?

Chef Graham Elliot looks like he’s eaten his fair share of chili but there were no reported sightings of the cook in Middlesboro at Conley’s Drive In or Harlan’s estimable Dairy Hut.

We would’ve loved to see the contestants baking scratch hotdog buns, fermenting homemade mustards, slowly simmering big pots of ground beef chili….it could’ve come at the end of a long day on the Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail.

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