How British Pubs and the Harrods Food Hall Inspired Top Chefs Latest Set Design

British pubs and the famous Harrods food hall served as inspiration for Bravo’s new season of “Top Chef.”

Award-winning production designer James Pearse Connelly, who has designed the show’s set for nearly a decade, wanted to capture the essence of British culture for his ninth kitchen. Says Connelly, “It was about how to bring London into the show with all-star chefs from around the world.”

Connelly started by looking at how pubs were designed. He says, “I started with wood paneling and that mystery, intimacy, intrigue and sparkle of what a British pub is.” Additionally, he brought in diamond pane glass and paid homage to London’s famous Big Ben with round, clock tower-inspired doors.

With former contestants Dawn Burrell, Buddha Lo, Sara Bradley and Amar Santana all competing, Connelly says he wanted to draw on that top-tier quality they were bringing to the show. He says, “There needed to be a level of championship, so I sprinkled in an Olympic polish by adding high gloss so things were brighter. There’s metal, gold and glossy white tiles.”

Connelly had a healthy two to three months to work on his design process, going through several different iterations of the kitchen. “We took another pass at it and looked at Harrods,” he says, referring to London’s famed luxury department store. “They have an amazing kitchen and marketplace. There’s an influence from the Harrods Food Hall within the marketplace of ‘Top Chef’ because we wanted to be deliberate about how we were inspired by it. It’s London iconography.”

As for the judge’s table — with fan-favorites Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons all returning — Connelly says, “It set the benchmark for reality competition shows as to what a judge’s table should be. It’s been a surfboard, a tablecloth and an oval-shaped desk. In this version, we landed on the idea that it needs to be a countertop.”

Connelly had 7,200 square feet to work with for the kitchen set. “The marketplace and the pantry are big. It’s increased year after year,” he says. “That alone is 1,000 square feet of endless ingredients. There’s fresh produce, spices and anything you need to cook.”

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