Eric Ripert will judge Top Chef DC, replacing Toby Young

For its seventh season, Top Chef is getting a new fourth judge: Eric Ripert. The season is officially titled Top Chef: Washington, D.C., and will feature guest appearances by Nancy Pelosi and Leon Panetta, among others.

Bravo’s press release says Ripert, the chef owner of Le Bernardin in New York City who has appeared on the show before, will be “a regular guest judge” and join judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Padma Lakshmi. Toby Young isn’t mentioned and thus is presumably gone; he replaced Ted Allen two seasons ago, and then promised to tone down his harsh criticism during the Las Vegas season.

The press release also announces the 17 contestants and challenge-related guests for Top Chef Washington DC, who include Buzz Aldrin, Nancy Pelosi, White House chef Sam Kass, Joe Scarborough, Senator Mark Warner, Representative Aaron Schock, and CIA Director Leon Panetta. On the challenges that Bravo has revealed, “the chefs take over the concession stands at the Nationals stadium, go inside the CIA’s closely guarded headquarters and literally receive out of this world direction on one challenge from a NASA astronaut orbiting Earth.”

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