MILWAUKEE — Season 21 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” will premiere on March 20. The new season was primarily shot in Wisconsin, and is home to one of the contestants, too.

Dan Jacobs, the head chef and co-owner of EsterEv and DanDan — both in Milwaukee — is one of 15 contestants this season.

(Photo courtesy of Bravo/Top Chef)

“Being on ‘Top Chef’ has always been a dream of mine. When they announced that Season 21 was taking place in Wisconsin, it felt like fate. What an honor to represent our region," he said.

Originally from Chicago, Jacobs and his business partner Dan Van Rite are six-time James Beard Best Chef - Midwest semi-finalists. He moved to Milwaukee with his wife in 2011, working as a sous chef and executive chef at Roots and later Wolf Peach. He then worked as the executive chef for Odd Duck before opening his own restaurants in 2016.

EsterEv brings in flavors from across the globe to a rotating tasting menu, while Jacobs’ DanDan puts a modern and Midwestern twist on Chinese-American cuisine.

“It’s amazing to see Milwaukee represented in such an incredible way. As the only Wisconsin-based contestant on this season, I take a lot of pride in representing our incredible culinary community that has inspired me to be where I am today," he said. 

Jacobs was diagnosed with Kennedy’s disease, a genetic neuromuscular ailment. He received his diagnosis the same year he opened his restaurants.

When he’s not in the kitchen, Jacobs raises money for Kennedy’s disease awareness. Jacobs and Van Rite even founded an annual fundraising dinner — Dim Sum + Give Some — to benefit the Kennedy’s Disease Association.

“A big reason I wanted to compete on ‘Top Chef’ was to inspire people with disabilities. As many people know, I have Kennedy’s disease, a rare and progressive neuromuscular disorder. I hope this platform allows me to inspire people who are differently-abled to pursue their passions, especially in the culinary world where physical constraints can be a big barrier," he said. 

The chef is also a board member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. He helped raise $28.6 billion for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund in 2021. He even spoke to President Joe Biden on behalf of independent restauranteurs.

“Top Chef” will air on Wednesday nights; episodes will be available to stream on Peacock the day after they air. 


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