Season 18 of “Top Chef” premieres on April 1 — no joke, the show filmed in Portland during the pandemic, and Seattle’s own Shota Nakajima is one of 15 new “cheftestants.” Nakajima says that the COVID safety protocols, including an initial quarantine and then pod hotel living, were so stringent, “It felt way more safe than regular life.”

Bravo is arguably as strict about spoilers, but the producers have granted permission to reveal that the first episode includes a Quickfire challenge for which all the chefs had to pick their one indispensable ingredient — a single, would-not-want-to-cook-without-it essential.

Other cast members, who shall remain nameless, chose the likes of Gruyère, apple chutney, butter and plantains; Nakajima chose kombu. Here’s why he deems it a necessity — and because our hometown top chefs are the best, we asked 13 more of them for their desert-island ingredient choices, too, eliciting answers ranging from various umami boosters, to our friends the microorganisms, to Champagne (yes!).

SHOTA NAKAJIMA of Taku (and “Top Chef” season 18 contestant): “Kombu — it’s natural MSG with a lot of flavor! Japanese cuisine is based off of dashi, and the classic version of dashi is water, bonito flakes and kombu. Kombu is seaweed that is dried out, so the salt cures naturally and leaves a white powdery layer, which is the same element as your so-called MSG — and also pretty much pure umami. [There are] many fun ways to use it … Some of my favorites are as dashi — clear soup stock — with turnips, or braised low and slow with a sweet, savory soy sauce, which becomes a delicious condiment with rice!”

KRISTI BROWN of Communion: “Bragg’s Liquid Aminos — it’s the queen of umami! It flows, and it can bring together flavors — unlike salt, soy sauce or citrus!”

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DAVID GUREWITZ of La Dive: “After much deliberation, the ‘ingredient’ I can’t live or cook without is/are microorganisms (cue eye roll, I know). Microorganisms are in large part responsible for all the most delicious things I like to eat, from coffee to kimchi, yogurt to miso. Plus they help preserve foods (important on a desert island). If I had to be more specific, I guess I’d choose lactobacillus first (though edible strains of aspergillus make for a good argument).”

MELISSA MIRANDA of Musang: “My must-have ingredient is Johnny’s Seasoning Salt! It makes everything taste better — the perfect balance of flavor and spice. There’s almost nothing I wouldn’t put it on. Johnny’s has been a staple in my family for many years. Everyone that I’ve shared it with in the restaurant and among our guests has fallen in love with it. I’ve brought it into my work as a video host for Bon Appétit, as I find it extremely versatile in a variety of dishes. And it’s made in Tacoma, so it’s a local brand.”

DRE NEELY of Gravy: “My must-have ingredient is mustard greens. I love them because they are so delicious, versatile and available year round. I love to braise them and serve them with fish. I make a lot of mustard-green pesto. And I use them in many different salads — yummy and spicy.”

HOLLY SMITH of Cafe Juanita: “I think I would choose colatura/garum — they make everything better. Salt, you can harvest on an island. I am assuming I would have fruit and fish on the island, and maybe a boar, some clumping palms? I could hunt and fish … Is Champagne an answer? It would be sad to not have Champagne.”

MATT TINDER of Saboteur Bakery: “That’s easy. Meyer lemon. The zest, the peel, the juice. I preserve it; I preserve it and then candy it. I make it into marmalade, I make jam out of the juice, I candy the peel. It’s my favorite … actually, I’m gonna name my favorite pigeon ‘Meyer Lemon.’ ”

SUN HONG of (recently closed, but will be baaaaack) By Tae: “If this isn’t a ‘Castaway’ situation starring Tom Hanks — first thing comes to mind: beef jerky and a pack of cigarettes, for sure. If it’s like the ‘Survivor’ show, where you gotta make friends: beef jerky and a pack of cigarettes. If it’s a for-real emergency: cocktail sauce, of course. Everything tastes like shrimp on an island.”

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MUTSUKO SOMA of Kamonegi and Hannyatou: “I will have to choose bonito flakes. Bonito is used as the base of Japanese cooking to create umami in dishes. It is very versatile and I can use it as is, or I can create dashi with it that produces layered complexity to a dish without using fat. I could also use it as a garnish as well.”

MIKE EASTON of Il Nido: “Mine would have to be the egg. It is not only a meal in itself, but an essential component to everything from fresh pasta (obvi), to classic cocktails, necessary in soufflés and desserts, used as a thickening agent, a leavening agent … it does it all, and happens to also be my favorite ingredient.”

WAYNE JOHNSON of FareStart: “Wow, that is a tough one. First I thought it had to be satisfying, like chocolate. Then I started thinking, what if I’m stranded for a long time and went to kale, because I could then have it when I caught my fish, boil it, make soup or make kale salad. If you said item, I would have had to say: machete.”

LIZ KENYON of Rupee Bar and Manolin: “One item, desert island. This is really hard! The first thing that pops into my mind is any type of nice vinegar — probably specifically a rosé vinegar, white balsamic (I like the sweetness) or a sherry. I really love how clean a nice vinegar is, and how much it adds to whatever you are eating or drinking! It is a very diverse ingredient to use in savory items, sweet desserts or cocktails/mocktails. I also love any kind of pickle.”

LOGAN COX of Homer and Milk Drunk: “I’d say my desert-island-necessity ingredient would be flour?! If you’re really thinking of surviving — assuming the island is surrounded by saltwater, you’d be able to harvest salt and potentially fish?! But with just flour, you could distill the saltwater and make a naturally leavened starter and have unlimited bread for eternity (so long as you take care of that starter!).”

TOSHIYUKI KAWAI of Iconiq: “My must-have desert-island necessity is a fish found commonly in Japan called kinmedai. It is an amazing protein. When served raw, it is tender and almost melts in your mouth because it is a fairly fatty fish, without ever feeling greasy. When cooked with the scales on, the scales become an almost natural breading, giving the fish a bit of crunch even when just lightly pan-roasted. I don’t serve it often in the restaurant, as I import it fresh from Japan, but the few times we have served it this year, I was excited to see our patrons enjoy it as much as I do. My close second choice was going to be butter.”

(Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and space.)