What is up my fellow Top Chefians! I am so excited to be back and covering my legit favorite Bravo show. Before they even roll out the first episode I thought we would take a minute and snark on the cheftestants and discuss the trailer.
First off this is fresh batch, no returning chefs who missed the mark last time this is an honest to goodness fresh meat cast, which means no redemption stories to be written. There are however a lot of Top Chef protégés and I have feeling that is going work into many a storyline. Second I want to think you all who encouraged me to watch the Texas season I missed. It was a great palette cleanser to Season 14 and helped me through the loss of my dog. Also, I feel like that was a good prep for this season that looks like it will involve a good amount of cold weather cooking, ski lifts and victimizing/bullying/crying.
Holding court at the Judges Table is the Holy Trinity of Top Chef is of course Gail, Scar and Big Daddy Tom.
Gail has finally found some patterns that work on her and has ditched the ruffles
Occasionally joining them will be he of the white-rimmed glasses, Graham Elliott who will hopefully not leave me with half a season of Big Mouth Blais like he did last season because there is only smugness I can handle in a season.
New York, NY
Fatima: Chef Fatima left Pakistan at 18 and came here to attend the CIA, Culinary Institute of America that is. She has an impressive resume of working her way up to the Executive Sous Chef at La Fonda Del Sol. Currently, she is working on opening her own restaurant (ORLY). She also was the first Pakistani woman to ever win on Chopped. Chef Fatima seems like a feminist and all-around bad ass, my type of lady.
Chef/Owner, Millwright’s Restaurant and Tavern
Tyler has been working in restaurant kitchens since he was 16 years-old. He counts Charlie Trotter, Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris as his mentors. Presently he is the Chef/Owner of Millwright’s and the newly opened TheCook&TheBear (BBQ) in West Hartford, CT focusing on artisan foods and locally sourced ingrediences. Chef Tyler has been nominated four consecutive years in a row for the prestigious Best Chef Northeast James Beard Award (2014-2017), and in 2014 was named Chef of the Year by the Connecticut Restaurant Association. Also, he is a father of three and do-gooder with lots of charity work. I expect lots of doing it for my babies face camera time.
Current Residency: Denver, CO
Occupation: Executive Chef, Bar Dough
Carrie: Chef Carrie Baird is the executive chef at Bar Dough, in Denver, CO but has worked at Rioja, Euclid Hall and as the Executive Chef of Braze. Top Chef Masters alum Jennifer Jasinski is her mentor. She loves working with local farmers and ranchers to develop her menus. So you know that means guys….. the producers threw us a bone and instead of a meat guy we have a MEAT GIRL this season.
Current Residency: New York, NY
Adrienne: Grew up in Chicago (WOOT, WOOT) attended Florida A&M University where she studied business and journalism where she started a dessert catering company. After working around Florida she moved to NYC. She worked at Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm Wine Bar and Privé. Then joined chef Marcus Samuelsson as Corporate Chef de Cuisine, opening Streetbird. Most recently she was the Executive Chef of Red Rooster in Harlem. She also worked for Chef Eric Ripert testing and editing recipes for his cookbook and show, Avec Eric. She is currently working on opening her own restaurant in in Harlem (MMMHMMM).
Current Residency: Denali National Park, AK
Occupation: Owner/Chef, 229 Parks Restaurant
Originally from the burbs of Detroit she moved to Alaska after graduating college and worked in the kitchen of a lodge at Denali National Park. She attended the New England Culinary Institute and the Escoffier Institute in Paris, working in kitchens all over the world including Antarctica. She has twice been nominated in 2016 and 2017 for Best Chef Northwest with the James Beard Foundation. Presently she is the Chef/Owner of 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern, at the entrance to Denali National Park.
Current Residency: Chicago, IL
Occupation: Executive Chef, Spiaggia & Café Spiaggia
Joseph is the Executive Chef at Chicago’s Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia, which means that:
- He worked with or under Evil Sarah from Top Chef Texas – Season 9; AND
- He did his audition at Monteverde her new restaurant where they held them this year in Chicago.
He has also worked at Art Smith’s Table 52, Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat, and Bill Kim’s Belly Q. I’ve got my one good eye on you Joseph, you better not be anything like Evil Sarah.
Current Residency: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Executive Chef, The Commissary
Born in Mexico City, he grew up in Los Angeles and Napa where he began his culinary career as a dishwasher (RESPECT). He did not go to culinary school, which I am sure is only going to come up a few million times, depending on how far he makes it in the competition. He has worked in the kitchens of Michael Mina and at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. Presently he is the Executive Chef at Traci Des Jardins’ The Commissary, focusing on Spanish-influenced California cuisine. Also, he is doing this show for his kids you guys.
Occupation: Chef/Owner/Author. Brown Sugar Kitchen
Tanya: Tanya is awesome! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Virginia, as well as a Grande Diplôme from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. She is the Executive Chef/Owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA and author of the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking. She was one of Hosts and soul food expert on television series called Melting Pot, a Food Network show that ran from 2001-2002 that also boasts a pre-Top Chef Scar as one of the host. She has worked all aspects of the restaurant; as an assistant manager at Cornelia Street Café, Café Rakel and Nosmo King Restaurants. A Catering Office Manager, wine importer’s Tasting Assistant and server at Mesa Grill, before working in the kitchen starting out as a line cook under Chef Bobby Flay. She is a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality AND was awarded the key to the City of Oakland.
Current Residency: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Chef/Owner, UNION and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market
Chef Bruce Kalman’s is from Paramus, NJ and attended the ulinary program at Jersey City’s Hudson Community College. He worked with David Burke at Park Ave Café and as a sous chef with Paul Bartalotta at Spiaggia private dining rooms. In Chicago he served as Executive Chef at Okno, Green Dolphin, and Coco Pazzo. At Il Piatto in Santa Fe, NM and Chelsea’s Kitchen in Phoenix. In LA had a hand in Santa Monica’s Misfit, and later joined West Hollywood’s The Churchill. In 2014, Bruce met Marie Petulla and eventually launched KP Hospitality, consisting of UNION, the Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market concept in L.A.’s Grand Central Market. He has been nominated for Rising Star Chef and previously appeared on Bravo’s Best New Restaurant, earned a championship title on Chopped and won his episode of “Knife Fight.” Yet despite all of this Bruce will be known as the guy who missed his first child’s birth to appear on the show.
Current Residency: Colorado Springs, CO
Occupation: Chef/Owner, Four by Brother Luck
Chef Brother Luck has been working in kitchens since he was 14-years-old and won culinary scholarships through competition cooking organizations as a teen. He graduated from of The Art Institute of Phoenix and is a Certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation. He worked in fine dining at Takitei and Kinjhoro Ryokans located in Kanazawa, Japan. Recently he opened Four by Brother Luck in downtown Colorado Springs focusing on the four providers behind his cooking – hunters, fisherman, farmer and gatherers. He won his episode of “Beat Bobby Flay”, has appeared on Chopped and in his spare time participates in Kevin James lookalike contests.
Current Residency: San Francisco, CA
Occupation: Executive Chef, Bar Crudo
Chef Perfit was born in Canberra, Australia, but was raised in Gainesville, FL. She attended Florida State University, working towards a degree in media productions and film. Her first job in a kitchen was doing prep at a restaurant in Florida. After graduating, Melissa attended culinary school in San Francisco at the California Culinary Academy. She has cooked at Hog Island Oyster Co, Farina, Rn74 for Michael Mina, Bar Tartine as sous chef for Chris Kronner and Nick Balla, and the Chef De Cuisine for Charles Phan’s restaurant Hard Water. Presently she is the Executive Chef at Bar Crudo in San Francisco since 2014.
Tu David Phu
Current Residency: Oakland, CA
Occupation: Chef/Founder of Pop-Up Series’ ĂN: A Vietnamese Dining Experience
Chef Tu David Phu is a Vietnamese-American whose family is part of the Hung Thanh fish sauce dynasty. He has worked at Chez Panisse, Quince, Acquerello, Daniel Boulud, Breslin, Gotham Bar & Grill, Gramercy Tavern and the Executive Chef of Gather in Berkeley. He hosted weekly pop up dinners “AN – a Vietnamese Dining Experience, “focusing on a Vietnamese tasting menu of dishes that reflect his childhood earning him the title of 2017 Rising Star Chef by San Francisco Chronicle.
Current Residency: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation: Chef de Cuisine, Cal Mare (Opening Late 2017)
Chef Stacho is another non-traditional cheftestant as he did not attend culinary skills, instead learned in the kitchen. He earned is Bachelor’s degree at University of California at Davis. In 2010, he opened a restaurant as a line cook and when that fell through he did what all people wish they could do…. He went to Europe. He then worked in San Francisco at Quince’s rustic Italian sister-restaurant Cotogna, before moving over to Quince where he managed the handmade pasta program. Then the Executive Sous Chef at Lazy Bear. Presently he has moved to Los Angeles to serve as Chef de Cuisine at Adam Sobel’s new restaurant Cal Mare, opening in Late 2017. By the looks of things he gave Big Mouth Blais major facial hair envy.
Current Residency: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Chef/Owner, Butterfunk Kitchen
Chef Chris Scott has worked with “notable chefs” such as Kevin Sbraga, Mike Isabella (I will pause for the laughing to die down) as well as true notables as Al Paris and Michael Solomanov. He served as Executive Chef for CNN and Time Warner, overseeing major dining events. In 2016, Chris and his wife opened Butterfunk Kitchen, a soul food/juke joint restaurant that was named BEST new restaurant in 2016 by Brooklyn Magazine and featured in The New York Times. You guys this is probably the first time in the history of the world that anyone has ever used working with Kevin Sbraga as a positive. Also, I could listen to this guy talk all day he’s got the voice of a narrator about 70’s funk and the history of rap documentaries. However I find the name of his restaurant name funny.
Current Residency: San Diego, CA
Occupation: Executive Chef, El Jardín (Opening in 2018)
Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins previously competed on season two of Top Chef Mexico, I so wish my spanish was better so I could watch this series. She was born in U.S. and raised between Tijuana and San Diego and draws inspiration in her food from the regional flavors of Tijuana and Guadalajara. Chef Claudetter worked as the Chef de Cuisine at Bracero in San Diego’s Little Italy and in pastry at El Bizcocho. Also she has been named the Executive Chef of El Jardín, a modern Mexican restaurant opening in San Diego in 2018.
Remember earlier when I said that this season is a fresh start….
Because last week, Top Chef dropped a bomb when they surprisingly dropped the first Last Chance Kitchen online. In tradition with last season I will be covering Last Chance Kitchen in a separate review but since Bravo added them to the Cheftestant line up online here they are………………………….
Previously Competed on Top Chef Season 13: California
Current Residency: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Executive Chef/Creator, Kith and Kin
Previously Competed on Top Chef Season 6: Las Vegas & Season 8: All Stars The Richard Blais Redemption Tour
Current Residency: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Owner/Executive Chef, Carroll Couture Cuisine
Lee Anne Wong
Previously Competed on Top Chef Season 1: San Francisco
Current Residency: Honolulu, HI
Occupation: Chef/Owner, Koko Head Café
Competed On: Season 2: Top Chef(Finalist) / Season 8: All Stars The Richard Blais Redemption Tour
Current Residency: Los Angeles
Occupation: Executive Chef & Owner, WOLF & Beefsteak
Honestly, I am shocked. When listing out all the cheftestants initially I thought that it seemed short BUT MARCEL! I never watched season 1 and Season 13 was so boring I barely limped through the first few episodes, I made it as far as the episode in the park when the guy licked his spoon and then used it to stir his pot. I was as grossed out as Scar and I didn’t even have to eat the food. However, I remember Kwame being very good with a youthful eagerness and the most charismatic cheftestant that season. Judging from the many that they have chosen with a decent amount of television cooking exposure I would say that we are in for one hell of a season. The fun starts the Thursday, December 7th!
In the meantime, if you are jonesing for some Top Chef, I urge you to check out Top Chef Jr. I happened to catch an episode and was blown away by the kids, their talent and the Top Chef commitment to keep it all in the family. They were trained in bootcamp by the Scallop Queen herself Jamie, a less cuddly Tiffany Derry often appears as a guest judge, Richard Blais shows up, Brooke comes by bringing Katsuji, Shirley, Kwame and Amar. Casey came on this week to give a read on a girl, princess to princess. Voltaggio brothers got their own episode going brother to brother offering jobs to minors.
Not to mention this earth angel Fuller
At first it plays out like a SNL parody with adolescents as the kids filling out all the usual roles but without the jadedness and tattoos. Also, they are still sweet enough that they help each other when they are in trouble and cry when a friend is eliminated. Vanessa Lachey does a great job as a host and I believe I have solved the Curtis Stone conundrum… he does not have chemistry with anyone.
So sharpen those knives and lets get ready, its going to be a good season.