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On the 'Top Chef' Cruise, Kristen Kish Cooks Room Service and More

On the 'Top Chef' Cruise, Kristen Kish Cooks Room Service and More

A recap of all the shenanigans from the cheftestant-ridden journey

Just in case you didn't get a chance to shell out upward of $749 to hang on a cruise with your Top Chef besties, The Hollywood Reporter has an extensive diary to show you just how much you missed.

There are tidbits like how people posed with cardboard cutouts of the chefs "while the actual chefs walk[ed] by," while Spike Mendelsohn was seen meandering down the street at port in Key West, eating some Key lime pie.

Richard Blais went jogging with 20 or so excited cruisers, while diners tried their best to dine in the dark (but oftentimes cheated to figure out what they're eating). There was a Top Chef Jeopardy game that was effectively Slumdog Millionaire'd, as The Hollywood Reporter reports, by a teenager.

The best part? Most recent winner Kristen Kish talked her way into the galley to make a grilled cheese sandwich at two in the morning, intercepted a room service call, cooked the order, and delivered it herself. Girl crush: solidified.

The joy of making kimchi with Maangchi

That’s how Emily Kim, a.k.a. Maangchi, feels about it. She’s shared countless kimchi recipes on her popular YouTube channel, Cooking Korean Food With Maangchi, and that content isn’t just for show. It’s a way of life.

“I make it every other month,” Kim, 63, said from her home in New York City. “Making kimchi is actually so easy. My entire life, I’ve been making kimchi.”

When she first started making YouTube videos 13 years ago, Kim made kimchi in large quantities — just like she learned growing up in Yeosu, South Korea. Early on, she recalls, readers would tell her, “10 pounds is too much. Can you do one cabbage?”

“But one cabbage is three pounds,” Kim said. “You’re not going to be very satisfied with a small jar. Now, my readers make 20, 30, 40 pounds.”

And making it at home gives you the ability to tailor it to your taste.

“I like it very spicy, very red, with a lot of anchovy and fish sauce with heavy paste,” said Kim. “Make a lot, just like me.”

Many Korean family recipes are based on tradition, rather than precise instructions. They don’t fit on index cards, and details aren’t always shared freely, even within the family. Kimchi and other dishes are developed over time, through observation and trial and error — all in an effort to capture the taste of Mom’s home cooking or to live up to a discerning mother-in-law.

But Kim has never hesitated to share her knowledge and love of Korean cuisine, or hansik. She’s also been generous with her time, and through her cooking, Kim has helped people come closer to their Korean identity.

There is no template for the Korean experience.

Chef Kristen Kish, 36, was born in South Korea and adopted when she was 4 months old. She grew up in Michigan, where she says she was exposed to more Polish food influences than Korean.

“My mom would always introduce me to Korean exchange students and Korean dolls and would give me all the resources to learn about it. But there was such a disconnect, and I will admit there is still a disconnect to this day,” Kish said. “As an adult, I understand and I see it, and I understand that it is a part of me, but I don’t innately have some emotional attachment to it.”

After winning Season 10 of “Top Chef,” Kish was invited to join Kim to film a video for the PBS Asian American food and culture series, “Lucky Chow.” The concept, Kish said, was “Maangchi giving Kristen Kish the Korean adoptee a Korean cooking lesson.”

In a New York City test kitchen, the two met to make kimchi and cook japchae (stir-fried glass noodles with vegetables).

Kim was the “first truly Korean figure” to give her a proper Korean cooking lesson, Kish said, adding, “Immediately, I got very — and still to this day around Korean food get — insecure. I questioned my ability as a chef, and this was post-‘Top Chef.’ I’d just won and the world saw, and here I am, holding a knife, trying to cut carrots for kimchi and my hand is shaking because I’m so nervous.”

That insecurity with preparing Korean food was paralyzing, Kish said. But after the two spent time together, Kish’s paralysis was overcome by Kim’s kindness.

Before they parted, Kim handed Kish a pink silk purse with roasted sesame seeds and a bag of dried Korean chiles.

“That was a very big moment for me, because she is a maternal Korean woman and she was basically engulfing me in acceptance and love and care,” Kish said.

Musician Michelle Zauner, who performs as Japanese Breakfast, also recalls how Kim and her cooking lessons helped her feel more connected with her Korean identity.

In 2018, Zauner wrote an emotional essay in the New Yorker, “Crying in H Mart,” about her grief following the death of her mother. As a biracial Korean American, Zauner, 31, wrote that her Korean mother was “my access point for our Korean heritage.” (She’s turned that essay into a forthcoming memoir about the bond she shared with her mother over Korean food, her grief and how she reclaimed her identity.)

When Zauner’s mother was sick, a Korean caretaker came to live with the family. The caretaker made her mother jatjuk, a pine nut porridge.

“She sort of took over the caretaking process, and I think psychologically, that was a real confrontation for me not to be able to cook for my mom the way she cooked for me,” Zauner said. “I felt like a fake, or I couldn’t be there for her, like I wasn’t Korean enough to make this kind of stuff.”

Zauner looked up a recipe for jatjuk after her mother died and found Maangchi’s recipe.

“I always felt this gratitude and indebted to Maangchi. It was such a therapeutic thing for me to finally make this dish that I felt like I would never be able to know how to make,” Zauner said. “Maangchi was this figure that made this thing that, weirdly, is this mysterious thing that’s hidden and passed on from your family. It’s rare to have someone open with their knowledge.”

Zauner celebrated her 30th birthday with Kim.

“I ate her kimchi, and it was so good,” she said.

During these COVID-19 pandemic times, Kim says her thoughts have been with her readers and followers who may be struggling. She’s wondered how she might help for her, that means developing more delicious and inexpensive recipes with them in mind.

“All of this is coming from love. I feel the pain when they’re losing jobs and staying home, but they have to feed their family,” Kim said. “I like to make food with love.”

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Chefs on TV, From Julia Child to Top Chef

No packing your knives here! We had a special treat for Top Chef fans. Six of our favorite champions from the high-stakes show talked about the food TV they watched growing up and what it was like being on—and winning—Top Chef. Recurring Top Chef guest judge Nilou Motamed moderates the conversation, which also explored how Julia Child helped pave the way for women cooking on TV today. With Top Chef winners Kelsey Barnard Clark, Stephanie Izard, Melissa King, Kristen Kish, Mei Lin, and Brooke Williamson. Introduction by Cherry Bombe Art Director Nancy Pappas.

Don’t miss these books by our panelists

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Nilou Motamed has been shaping the conversation in food and travel for more than 20 years. She is an Emmy-nominated TV personality and has been named one of AdWeek’s 30 Most Influential People in Food. Raised in Tehran, Paris, and New York—and fluent in four languages—Nilou brings a genuinely global perspective to her work, informed by a love and understanding of foods from around the world.

Nilou most recently served as Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine, where she highlighted global foodways. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief of and as the longtime Features Director & Senior Correspondent at Travel + Leisure, where she oversaw the brand’s award-winning coverage of restaurants, hotels, culture, and trends in luxury travel.

In 2017, Nilou leveraged her global network and food and travel expertise and co-founded Story Collective, a consultancy specializing in brand voice, strategy, and storytelling for the world’s top brands, luxury hotels, restaurants, and destinations. You can watch Nilou on preeminent food TV franchises including Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Chopped, where she appears as a recurring judge. She can also be found wherever delicious food is being made—and on Instagram @niloumotamed.

Kelsey Barnard Clark

Kelsey Barnard Clark is a born and raised Gulf Southerner from Dothan, Alabama. She has developed an impressionable resume including being the fifth woman and first southerner to win the title of Top Chef and was also voted fan favorite following her season 16 win.

Kelsey got her start in the food industry working for a high-end caterer and catered her first solo wedding at age 15. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America’s, she worked savory & pastry in several Michelin-star restaurants in New York City including Cafe Boulud under Gavin Kaysen, and Dovetail under John Fraser. Her signature southern-French cuisine is inspired by family recipes and classic French techniques.

In 2012 Kelsey moved back home to open her catering company, Kelsey Barnard Catering. Today, she runs her catering company and restaurant, KBC, in historic downtown Dothan while also taking her chef talents on the road, appearing and cooking at events as often as possible.

She has a book coming out this fall and a new restaurant concept in the works. She lives in Dothan with her husband and two children, Monroe and Evelyn June.

Stephanie Izard

Stephanie Izard, James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” recipient 2013 and 2011 Food & Wine “Best New Chef,” is the Executive Chef and Owner of five Chicago restaurants: Girl & the Goat, Little Goat, Duck Duck Goat, Cabra, and Sugargoat, along with the forthcoming Girl & the Goat in Los Angeles. Izard also won the coveted title of Iron Chef in 2017 and was the fourth winner of Bravo’s Top Chef in 2008.

A 2011 James Beard “Best New Restaurant” nominee, Girl & the Goat has been praised by high-profile publications such as Saveur, New York Times, Food & Wine, and Better Homes and Gardens. Little Goat, Stephanie’s highly successful follow-up to Girl & the Goat, features classic, Americana cuisine in a diner setting. In March 2016, Stephanie opened her third restaurant, a Chinese-inspired concept called Duck Duck Goat in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. In 2019, Stephanie’s Peruvian-inspired eatery, Cabra, opened on the rooftop of The Hoxton, Chicago and most recently Izard opened Sugargoat, an imaginative sweets shop and bakery.

Izard also has a product line called “This Little Goat,” consisting of globally-inspired cooking sauces and spice mixes for home cooks and currently ships her sweets from Sugargoat nationwide in partnership with Goldbelly. Izard’s first book, Girl in the Kitchen, was released in 2011 and her second book, Gather & Graze, was released in April 2018.

Melissa King

Chef Melissa King is best known as the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars: Los Angeles Season 17. She holds more challenge wins than any other competitor in the history of Top Chef, including the winner of All-Star’s Fan Favorite. She placed as a finalist on Top Chef: Boston Season 12. She has been recognized as “one of the best female chefs in San Francisco” and “40 under 40: Rising Star.”

King completed a B.A. in Cognitive Science at UC Irvine and attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating at the top of her class. She is also a certified level 1 sommelier. Her unique style of cooking combines modern California cuisine with Asian flavors.

With over 15 years in the industry, King has helmed several Michelin-starred kitchens in San Francisco (Campton Place, Luce, and The Ritz Carlton Dining Room) under acclaimed names, such as Dominique Crenn and Ron Siegel. She has cooked for notable figures, including Oprah Winfrey and Al Gore.

As a proud Asian-American, queer woman, King has a passion for supporting the community — working with non-profit organizations and LGBTQI charities, such as The Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, Black Visions Collective, Asian Americans For Equality, and more. She was honored as a Celebrity Grand Marshal for San Francisco Pride, modeled for Levi's Strauss Co. in a global campaign advocating for the LGBTQ community, and is featured in GAP’s 2021 Spring Campaign to celebrate diversity and advocacy. She was selected as one of Williams-Sonoma’s Chefs’ Collective. Along with being a chef, television personality, and brand partner, she actively participates in speaking panels supporting women’s empowerment, sustainability, food education, and entrepreneurship.

King currently lives in San Francisco where she runs her own company focusing on partnerships and culinary experiences. She has a product line called King Sauce, a small-batched sauce and spice line available in her online shop. She also has an apparel line and offers online cooking experiences.

Kristen Kish

Kristen Kish was born in South Korea and adopted into a family in Kentwood, Michigan. She showed an affinity for cooking at a young age. Her mother suggested she go to culinary school and since attending Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, Kristen has never looked back.

After moving to Boston, Kristen worked in many high-profile restaurants including Michelin-star Chef Guy Martin’s Sensing and Barbara Lynch’s Stir as Chef de Cuisine, overseeing all back of house operations, including the design and execution of nightly menus and demonstration dinners for 10 guests. Kristen competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 10 where she won the coveted title, becoming the second female chef to win the prestigious competition. She went on to become Chef de Cuisine of Menton, Chef Barbara Lynch’s fine dining restaurant. She left this position in 2014 to travel the world and write a cookbook.

Kristen was co-host of 36 Hours, a Travel Channel show that partnered with The New York Times to bring the hit newspaper column to television. In October 2017, Kristen launched her first cookbook, Kristen Kish Cooking.

Currently, Kristen partnered with Sydell group to launch her first restaurant, Arlo Grey. A collaboration between Executive Chef Kish and Sydell group, the restaurant reflects Kristen’s playful yet refined cuisine pulling inspiration from a French and Italian cooking background paired with a nostalgia of dishes from her upbringing to her love of travel that helped her gain an outlook on how people cook to tell their story. Kristen is thrilled to use the ingredients of Texas and the Gulf and marry it with her style to create a place for diners to enjoy.

Up next for Kristen, she will be co-hosting a new TV series, Fast Foodies, in early 2021 on TruTV. Additionally, Kristen will be part of a rotating judging and dining panel for season 18 of Bravo’s Top Chef, set to air spring 2021.

Mei Lin

Born in Guangdong, China, Chef Mei Lin grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, working alongside her mother and father at their family-owned and -operated Chinese restaurant. It was there where she learned the fundamentals of being a well-rounded cook and how to run a restaurant. At her restaurant Nightshade, opened in 2019, the menu features a concise point of view, showcasing an elegant elevation of classic Asian dishes. Nightshade is the culmination of Lin’s personal culinary history and is on full display, which garnered rave reviews from Food & Wine and GQ’s 2019 Best New Restaurants lists and 2020 James Beard Foundation Best Chef California and Best New Restaurant nominations.

Brooke Williamson

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Brooke Williamson has carved out an impressive résumé full of leading roles and professional achievement, such as being the youngest female chef to ever cook at the James Beard House, winning Bravo’s Top Chef Season 14 in Charleston, and most recently, being crowned the first winner of Food Network’s Tournament of Champions in spring 2020. Although officially beginning her career at the young age of 17, Williamson always wanted to be a chef for as long as she can remember. “I love creating things that make people happy, and I’ve found that food genuinely does that,” she explains.

Williamson began her culinary career as a teacher’s assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, followed by her first kitchen position as a pastry assistant at Fenix at the Argyle Hotel, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank. Her undeniable star quality and concentrated creative energy brought her to Chef Michael McCarty’s nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael’s of Santa Monica, where she worked her way up from line cook to being their youngest sous chef. Williamson later staged at the renowned Daniel restaurant by Chef and Owner Daniel Boulud in New York City. Two years later, Williamson was appointed her first executive chef position at the notable Los Angeles restaurant Boxer. Following that, she opened the Brentwood eatery Zax as Executive Chef, where she began to develop her signature California-inspired cuisine—infused with local ingredients, global flavors, and centered around the idea that simplicity goes a long way. While at Zax, she also met her husband and business partner Nick Roberts. The two have owned and operated several restaurants since, including their fifth establishment, Da Kikokiko in Playa Vista. In 2020, Williamson was certified by The Court of Master Sommeliers.

During her day-to-day operations, she works alongside Roberts creating new menus and running the front and back of house, takes her chef talents on the road to local and national food events and festivals, and regularly participates in philanthropic efforts with No Kid Hungry. When she finds time outside of her many ventures, Williamson stays active by running, bike riding, and playing with their 11-year-old son, Hudson.

Kim Chi

As the first Korean American contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Kim Chi wowed audiences and helped shine a spotlight on Korean culture while also uplifting a community of “Seoul queens” in the underground South Korean drag scene.

Born Sang-Young Shin, Kim Chi moved back and forth between South Korea and Michigan until she entered high school. Vacillating between two cultures was jarring at times, but Kim Chi always felt grounded in her Korean identity.

“I always knew deep down in my core I was Korean,” she said. “What really cemented me as being proud to be Korean was a lot of Korean pop culture. That was my connection to Korea, and I connected more to that culture than American pop culture.”

How much does your Korean identity influence your stage presence?

“The main reason why I chose my drag name Kim Chi is because I’ve always felt Koreans were very underrepresented in pop culture, so I wanted to pick a name that was as Korean as possible. Just to be able to have such a Korean word all over the posters at the gay clubs and bars and then later when I got on ‘Drag Race,’ to be able to be part of this massive underground gay culture, which is now going mainstream, to be able to represent Korean culture is basically what I’ve wanted to do and what I wanted to accomplish.”

What is one of your fondest kimchi memories?

“Every time I’d go over to my grandmother’s house, she’d always save this mukeunji [well-fermented kimchi] that’s been resting in her kimchi naengjanggo [refrigerator] for months, because she knows how much I love it. I feel like a lot of grandmas show their love through food, so the fact that she saved all this mukeunji for me just so she can cook it with pork — that’s love.”

An incomprehensive but indisputably correct guide to the great kimchis of Los Angeles.


Dutch & Doc’s

There’s no lack of new options near Wrigley Field. Joining the madding crowd is Boka Restaurant Group’s Dutch & Doc’s in Hotel Zachary, which is also home to Big Star and Mordecai. The menu reads like 2018 in a nutshell: quinoa and kale with avocado and sweet potato, cauliflower toast with ricotta and apple, and deviled eggs.


The newest member of the Lettuce Entertain You family is a West Loop location of the company’s ramen shop. The ramens are all made with the superbly chewy noodles from Sun Noodle. There’s a classic tonkotsu and a far less traditional fried chicken and kimchi choice. For ramen newbies, there’s a handy list of the components that go into ramen alongside descriptions.

THR’s ‘Top Chef’ Cruise Diary: Culinary Rock Stars Take to the Open Seas

The Bravo series takes a sold-out crowd of 2,000 super-fans and some of the franchise's biggest stars through the Caribbean for four days -- and while everyone makes it back in one piece, some waistlines are forever altered.

Mikey O'Connell

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Late last week, over various swathes of the Caribbean, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, 15 former cheftestants and a sold-out crowd of just under 2,000 sea-faring foodies lived out what may have been one of the most edible and immersive fan events in reality TV history, Top Chef: the Cruise.

Voluntarily captive on the Celebrity Constellation for four days, passengers schmoozed with past winners and favorites, watched live Quickfires and Q&As put together by series producers Magical Elves, participated in traditional cruise-type activities with a Top Chef twist and ate (and ate and ate) to their hearts’ content &ndash and likely to their hearts’ dismay as well.

The Hollywood Reporter was part of a group of journalists invited to stow away on the boat, which dropped by Key West and Cozumel in between the various cheftivities, and document the official programming and the equally entertaining antics that inevitably go down when that many celebrity chefs are set adrift with fans willing to shell out between $749 and $5,999.

Here’s just a little insight into what happened on the beloved Bravo show’s maiden voyage:

1:45 p.m. — After being forced to pose for what will be the first of many photos, I&rsquom handed a glass of complimentary champagne… the last booze that won&rsquot chip away at my imaginary child&rsquos college fund for the rest of the week. The reception hall is lined with dozens of cardboard cutouts of participating chefs — Malibu Chris! Brooke Williamson! That guy from Just Desserts! — all leading to an imperial banner of larger-than-life Gail and Tom. This isn&rsquot a Top Chef cruise. This is Top Chef: the Cruise.

2:20 p.m. — Fellow cruisers are not kidding around. The ship is still two hours shy of pulling out of port and guests are already clamoring for photos with the chefs. Las Vegas’ Mike Isabella and D.C.’s Angelo Sosa get roped into a unending line of photo ops. All-Stars winner Richard Blais, thus far avoiding the fray, dresses a burger for a small tyke at the main deck grill. Cheftestants, they’re just like us.

3:10 p.m. — It’s the first sighting of non-cardboard Gail and Tom. They chat up the ship&rsquos executive chef about the menu he has planned for the long weekend, an expected exchange that is somehow made ridiculously exciting by the fact that it’s taking place on a boat.

4:05 p.m. — My mandatory emergency drill is chef-free. If this ship goes down, my boring lifeboat is going to be full of civilians.

5:15 p.m. — Gail, putting on her hosting shoes, introduces the cruise&rsquos chef lineup. The recipient for the biggest applause is a toss-up between Richard, Seattle winner Kristen Kish and Fabio Viviani‘s Italian accent.

7:10 p.m. — Texas winner and lover of skinny jeans Paul Qui shuns the more secluded dinner tables reserved for the competitors to dine among the people. A quick survey of the room has guests almost unanimously opting for Miami runner-up Casey Thompson&rsquos raw Hamachi appetizer.

9:10 p.m. — The latest Quickfire challenge is going down in the theater after a small army cleaned and reset the kitchen stage obliterated by the first group. Most everyone has been drinking steadily since the free champagne, and Fabio manages to burn bread in a pan that doesn&rsquot appear to be hot. Mike and Angelo heckle him like The Muppets‘ Statler and Waldorf from an adjacent balcony.

10:45 p.m. — People are posing for photos with the cardboard cutouts of the chefs while the actual chefs walk by. A woman laments her inability to Instagram while out to sea.

12:00 a.m.Top Chef Master Hubert Keller spins a wicked set of EDM and Top 40 mixes for a glow-stick-twirling crowd that would not look out of place in Coachella’s Sahara tent. It supposedly goes on till 3 a.m., but I cannot stay up late enough to confirm.

11:30 a.m. — Chicago contestant Spike Mendelsohn, whose D.C.-based Good Stuff Eatery soon expands to Philadelphia, is doing the local thing while at port in Key West. He meanders down the street, eating a slice of key lime pie.

2:00 p.m. — After entertaining a small group with a cooking demonstration, Gail and Tom sit down and discuss the circumstances that led them to host their most hard-core fans at sea for four days. “You have to go into this without any cynicism,” Tom tells THR. “It’s really great.”

3:45 p.m. — Spike is playing guests in a Ping-Pong tournament. He&rsquos dominating all of them, with the exception of a pregnant woman. You can tell she&rsquos pregnant because we&rsquore only 24 hours into the cruise. This time on Sunday, stomachs will be more ambiguous.

5:30 p.m. — One particularly sauced lady, even by cruise standards, tells a crowd of ladies that she&rsquos on the new Real Housewives of New York. They pose for a photo with her, and say that if she&rsquos not lying (she is), they&rsquoll be able to sell it to TMZ.

5:50 p.m. — When asked to clarify her status as a Bravolebrity, the would-be Housewife pulls back and says she&rsquos probably in the background of an upcoming episode of Million Dollar Listing. She falls back into the pool.

7:15 p.m.Top Chef New York’s scallop-obsessed Jamie Lauren is not on the boat, but her scallops are. And after hearing about them incessantly for five years, they’re actually quite delicious.

10 p.m — The final Quickfire culminates in Casey holding a giant bowl of hand-whipped egg whites over New York winner Hosea Rosenberg‘s head for five seconds without dripping on him. The firm peaks give her bragging rights for the duration of the voyage.

12:15 a.m. – Celebrity karaoke in the Rendezvous Lounge includes no celebrities, but it is not without its entrainment value. A man passionately screams his way through Biz Markie‘s “Just A Friend,” while the emcee attempts to lighten the situation with odd Wayne’s World references. “Schwing?”

10:15 a.m. — One of the more straightforward programs of the entire cruise, &ldquoJogging With Richard Blais,&rdquo entails a group of 20-odd svelte overachievers running laps around the Lido Deck behind the jubilant chef while some less interested cruisers watch while smoking and sipping more cocktails. Richard could be a spokesperson for endorphins.

2:20 p.m. — Washington D.C. fan favorite Tiffany Derry fields questions about the pea puree incident of season seven during a ceviche demonstration on Cozumel. It cannot be stressed how often that pea puree has come up &ndash or how often it is mis-remembered. Neither alleged puree thief Alex Reznik or wronged puree chef Ed Cotton are on board, but Tiffany was in the kitchen that day. She classily refrains giving a formal opinion on the matter, but it&rsquos clear where her sympathies lay.

7:10 p.m. — The first round of Top Chef Jeopardy is Slumdog Millionaire&rsquod by a teenage boy named Sam. His parents cry when he&rsquos crowned the ultimate Top Chef fan for his encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise. The ever-stoic Colicchio is also visibly moved.

8:40 p.m. — Part of the special &ldquoDining in the Dark&rdquo meal, the San Marco Restaurant is filled with hundreds of diners wearing padded blindfolds that look like small training bras. Guests and chefs frantically stab at a chicken liver mousse, trying to discern the ingredients without looking at the plate. Almost everyone cheats during the subsequent courses.

10:10 p.m. — Bravo president Frances Berwick joins a Q&A session with Tom and Gail to elaborate on the origins of “pack your knives and go.” A former producer thought of it on the spot while filming the first elimination.

11:20 p.m. — After teasing that his friend Milton&rsquos band would be playing on the pool deck throughout the day, Renaissance man Colicchio bounds on stage in a Panama hat and straps on a guitar. The female passengers give him a reception fitting the ghost of Davy Jones, which only heightens when he starts shredding and singing. It&rsquos a culinary rock reggae moment for the ages.

12:10 a.m. — Seattle runner-up Brooke, whose husband graciously stayed back in their cabin to watch their son so the exhausted chef could blow off steam in the casino, promptly loses $500 and retires early in defeat.

1:47 a.m. — A cruise staffer attempts to describe the ship&rsquos room service menu to Kristen, who is, in turn, trying to convince him to let her into the galley: &ldquoNo, I&rsquom going to cook.&rdquo

Approximately 3 a.m. — Success. The recently named chef de cuisine at Boston’s Menton, having made her way into the galley to make a grilled cheese sandwich, intercepts a room service call from a cruiser. Kristen cooks the order and delivers it to their cabin door.

11:50 a.m. — Alone in an empty dining room, Kristen is deftly tinkering away on a grand piano for what seems to be her own satisfaction. Presumably, she’s slept at some point.

12:40 p.m. — Teaching a handful of cruisers how to make the Hamachi dish served two nights earlier, Casey praises the ship&rsquos kitchen staff for being overly accommodating&hellip in everything but letting the chefs bring their own knives. Apparently it&rsquos a security risk. (Magical Elves executive producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz tell THR a future cruise will have to include some manner of knife smuggling.)

1:50 p.m. — Up on the Lido Deck, guests of the good ship Top Chef have not yet exhausted their questions for the show staff, and Colicchio takes a battery of hilarious ones. A woman who used to intern at his restaurant Craft has an inaudible query which starts and ends with, &ldquoI&rsquom not trying to offend you.&rdquo Another man screams &ldquoTexas!&rdquo and begs Tom to take his sunglasses off. (It should be noted that this is the trip&rsquos only full day at sea &ndash and things got weird early.)

4:30 p.m. — Now is probably a good time to note that there is an on-ship network that&rsquos been airing commercial-free episodes of Top Chef continuously since we arrived on board. It’s hard not to get sucked in, especially since it offers the only glimpses of an absentee Padma Lakshmi (scheduling conflict) and boat TV does not have The Masters (the golf tournament, not the Top Chef spinoff).

6:50 p.m. — Paul makes the rounds during an intimate dinner with Bravo types and a few clients. His new Austin restaurant QUI is opening in mid-May, but he says the potential FOMO of missing the cruise far outweighed the stress of temporarily abandoning the preparations.

17 chefs were selected to compete in Top Chef: New York. [3]

Name Hometown Current Residence Age
Leah Cohen Scarsdale, New York New York, New York 26
Radhika Desai Chicago, Illinois Chicago, Illinois 28
Ariane Duarte Verona, New Jersey Verona, New Jersey 41
Patrick Dunlea Quincy, Massachusetts Hyde Park, New York 21
Alex Eusebio New York, New York Los Angeles, California 33
Daniel Gagnon New Hyde Park, New York New Hyde Park, New York 26
Carla Hall Nashville, Tennessee Washington, D.C. 44
Melissa Harrison Sparks, Maryland Boulder, Colorado 28
Lauren Hope Cincinnati, Ohio Savannah, Georgia 24
Jamie Lauren New York, New York San Francisco, California 30
Jeffrey "Jeff" McInnis Niceville, Florida Miami, Florida 30
Stefan Richter Tampere, Finland Santa Monica, California 35
Hosea Rosenberg Taos, New Mexico Boulder, Colorado 34
Jill Snyder Latrobe, Pennsylvania Baltimore, Maryland 28
Richard Sweeney Sayville, New York San Diego, California 27
Eugene Villiatora Whitmore Village, Hawaii Las Vegas, Nevada 33
Fabio Viviani Florence, Italy Moorpark, California 30

Carla Hall, Fabio Viviani, and Jamie Lauren returned to compete in Top Chef: All-Stars. [4] Stefan Richter returned for Top Chef: Seattle, and later competed in Top Chef Duels. [5] [6]

Episode # 1 2 3 4 5 6 3 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Quickfire Challenge
Stefan Radhika Leah Leah Hosea Ariane Radhika Stefan Leah 1
Stefan 1 Stefan 1 Carla 1 Jeff 1 4 N/A
Contestant Elimination Challenge Results
12 Daniel IN IN LOW IN OUT
13 Alex IN IN IN OUT
14 Richard IN IN OUT
15 Jill IN OUT
16 Patrick OUT
17 Lauren OUT 2

^Note 1 : The chef(s) did not receive immunity for winning the Quickfire Challenge.
^Note 2 : Lauren was eliminated by placing last in the Quickfire Challenge.
^Note 3 : Due to a refrigerator malfunction which spoiled some of the chefs' ingredients during the Elimination Challenge, no one was eliminated. Consequently, two chefs were eliminated in the following episode.
^Note 4 : Leah, Jamie, and Jeff (the three most recently eliminated contestants) were brought back to the competition to compete in a Quickfire Challenge. The winner would compete in the subsequent Elimination Challenge, but could only move on to the season finale if they won the challenge. Jeff won the Quickfire, and the judges picked him as one of their favorites in the Elimination Challenge, but did not select him to win. Consequently, he was automatically eliminated.

Quickfire Challenge: The chefs were welcomed to the Big Apple by host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio with a signature ingredient: apples. The challenge was a skills tournament consisting of three rounds. The chef who finished first in the Quickfire Challenge would win immunity in the next challenge, while the chef who finished last would leave the show immediately.

  • Round 1: The chefs had to peel 15 apples, using paring knives only, as quickly as possible. The first nine to finish were safe. The remaining eight proceeded to Round Two.
    • WINNER: Stefan
    • SAFE: Ariane, Carla, Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Jeff, Melissa, and Richard
    • SAFE: Alex, Daniel, Eugene, and Jill
    • SAFE: Leah, Patrick, and Radhika
    • ELIMINATED: Lauren

    Elimination Challenge: Each of the chefs drew a knife from the knife block marked with one of eight New York City neighborhoods. The chefs, in pairs, cooked dishes which represented the ethnic cuisines of those neighborhoods: Astoria (Greek), Brighton Beach (Russian), Long Island City (Middle Eastern), Ozone Park (Latin), Jamaica (Jamaican), Little Italy (Italian), Chinatown (Chinese), Little India/Curry Hill (Indian). The two dishes from each neighborhood were judged head-to-head. The chefs with the winning dishes were safe, while the chefs with the losing dishes were eligible for elimination. The name of the winning chef for each match-up are indicated in italics. The judges then selected their favorite and least favorite dishes from among the eligible contestants.

    • Middle Eastern: Ariane vs. Stefan
    • Greek: Richard vs. Jamie
    • Jamaican: Jill vs. Radhika
    • Latin: Fabio vs. Jeff
    • Russian: Hosea vs. Carla
    • Italian: Leah vs. Melissa
    • Chinese: Daniel vs. Patrick
    • Indian: Alex vs. Eugene
      • WINNER: Stefan (Lamb Chops with Tabouli Salad & Beef Onion Skewer)
      • ELIMINATED: Patrick (Seared Salmon, Bok Choy with Black Rice Noodles)

      Quickfire Challenge: The chefs were asked to create their version of a classic, well-loved New York dish: the hot dog. They competed against Angelina DiAngelo of Dominick's Hot Dog Truck in Queens. The contestants each had 45 minutes and access to the Top Chef pantry to prepare and present their dish to host Padma Lakshmi and guest judge Donatella Arpaia, a successful restaurateur and food expert. The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

      Elimination Challenge: The chefs were asked to open a "Top Chef restaurant" in Manhattan and create a three-course New American lunch menu for 50 diners. Each chef was responsible for creating his or her own dish. The competitors were given 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods Market and a budget of $2,500 for the entire group. During the two-hour prep time, Tom Colicchio came into the kitchen to make an announcement: the restaurant the chefs would be cooking lunch at was Craft, Colicchio's own flagship New York location. In addition, the 50 diners were all New York City chefs who auditioned for Top Chef: New York and did not make the cut.

      • Team Appetizer: Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Leah, Melissa
      • Team Entrée: Alex, Eugene, Jeff, Jill, Stefan
      • Team Dessert: Ariane, Carla, Daniel, Radhika, Richard
        • WINNER: Fabio (Beef Carpaccio with Arugula Salad, Parmesan, Balsamic Vinaigrette & Spherical Olives)
        • ELIMINATED: Jill (Ostrich Egg Quiche with Rice-Pecan Crust, Asparagus & Aged Cheese)

        Quickfire Challenge: Padma Lakshmi announced that this week's challenges was about "rolling with the punches." The chefs were asked to draw knives. Each knife was marked with a number, which referred to a specific page in Top Chef: The Cookbook. The contestants were given an hour to put their own spin on the recipes made by chefs from previous seasons. However, ten minutes into the Quickfire, Lakshmi and guest judge Grant Achatz told everyone to convert their dishes into soups. The chefs had to use their remaining 50 minutes to create their new dishes, using the Swanson's soup broths provided for them. The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

        Elimination Challenge: As the winner of the Quickfire Challenge, Leah was given the chance to choose her six teammates for the next challenge. She picked Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Melissa, Radhika, and Stefan. The remaining contestants formed the second team. The chefs were asked to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the rock band Foo Fighters and its entire entourage of more than 60 guests, including several vegetarians. They cooked their dinner at the band's next venue, an outdoor kitchen at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York. There were no refrigerators, no freezers, and no stoves only prep tables, microwaves, and toaster ovens. The contestants were given 15 minutes to create their menus, an hour and $1,200 per team to shop, and three hours to prepare their meals. The winning team was invited to attend the Foo Fighters concert that night, while the losing team was forced to clean up the kitchen after service. One member of the losing team was eliminated.

        • Team Sexy Pants: Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Leah, Melissa, Radhika, Stefan
        • Team Cougar: Alex, Ariane, Carla, Daniel, Eugene, Jeff, Richard
          • WINNER: Team Sexy Pants
          • ELIMINATED: Richard (Banana S'mores with Vanilla Cream & Chocolate Ganache)

          Quickfire Challenge: The chefs were given 30 minutes to create a breakfast amuse-bouche. The dishes were evaluated by Padma Lakshmi and Rocco DiSpirito, cookbook author and celebrity chef. The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge and a copy of DiSpirito's latest book, Rocco Gets Real.

          Elimination Challenge: The chefs were tested on both their culinary and telegenic skills. They were asked to create a dish that could be cooked and served for a 2½-minute television presentation which would be taped inside the Top Chef kitchen. Each chef had a $100 budget, 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods, and an hour to prep their dish. The judges selected their three favorite dishes and three least favorite dishes. Later, the top three chefs were awoken by head judge Tom Colicchio at 2 a.m. for a twist they were to be taken to the Rockefeller Center to cook their dishes for the hosts of NBC's The Today Show. During the live on-air broadcast, the hosts selected the winner of the challenge. The winning chef received a custom-made kit of two dozen chef's tools put together by Rocco DiSpirito, as well as an opportunity to present a dish live on The Today Show the morning after the episode aired.

          • WINNER: Ariane (Beefsteak Tomato Salad with Watermelon & Feta Cheese)
          • ELIMINATED: Alex (Rose Infused Crème Brûlée)

          Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived in the Top Chef kitchen to find Padma Lakshmi alone, with no guest judge. The chefs drew knives to choose their competitors. Each pair was taken into a darkened kitchen and given 15 seconds to taste a specific sauce. The contestants then had to bid on the number of ingredients they thought that they could correctly name. Bids passed back and forth until one chef challenged the other to match the last placed bid. If a complete list of correct ingredients was given, the challenged chef moved on to the next round. Naming any incorrect ingredients ended the round and the challenger moved on. Three chefs competed in the final round, which took place in a spelling bee-style format. The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

          • Round 1: Shrimp & Lobster Bouillabaisse
          • Round 2:Thai Green Curry
          • Round 3:Mexican Mole Sauce
            • WINNER: Hosea

            Elimination Challenge: The chefs prepared a four-course meal for Top Chef judge Gail Simmons' bridal shower. Each course had to be inspired by one of the lines of the traditional wedding rhyme, "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." The chefs drew knives to determine the teams. Each team was given 30 minutes and a budget of $800 to shop at Whole Foods, and 2½ hours to prep their dishes in the Top Chef kitchen. The following day, the chefs had one hour to finish cooking and present their dishes to the bridal shower guests at 24 Fifth Avenue. The winner received a new set of Calphalon stainless cookware and kitchen electrics.

            • Team Old: Hosea, Jeff, Stefan
            • Team New: Carla, Daniel, Eugene
            • Team Borrowed: Ariane, Jamie, Radhika
            • Team Blue: Fabio, Leah, Melissa
              • WINNER: Ariane (Indian Spiced Lamb on Carrot Purée with Raita & Wilted Kale)
              • ELIMINATED: Daniel (Tempura Shrimp, Beef Skewer with Peach-Miso BBQ Sauce & Yuzu Sorbet)

              Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived to find the Top Chef kitchen decorated for Christmas, with Padma Lakshmi waiting to present their next challenge they had to create a "one-pot wonder", a holiday meal that could be prepared in one cooking vessel. The chefs had 45 minutes to cook and present their dishes to Lakshmi and guest judge, American icon Martha Stewart. The prize, in addition to immunity in the elimination challenge, was an autographed copy of Stewart's latest book, Martha Stewart's Cooking School.

              Elimination Challenge: The chefs catered a 250-guest holiday party hosted by amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, at the Prince George Ballroom in New York City. The guest judges included chef Michelle Bernstein and actress Natasha Richardson. The chefs were given a hint for the inspiration behind their dishes with the arrival of the Harlem Gospel Choir, singing a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Lakshmi then asked the chefs to draw knives. The chefs were given 45 minutes to shop at Whole Foods Market and a budget of $800 to create a dish inspired by their verse. They had three hours to prep that night, one hour to prep and pack the next morning, and one hour to prepare their dishes on-site the next night. All four of the judges' favorites received copies of Michelle Bernstein's latest cookbook, Cuisine à Latina.

              • WINNER: Hosea (Eleven Pipers Piping: Smoked Pork Loin with Chipotle Mashed Potatoes & Apple BrandyJus)
              • ELIMINATED: None
                • Note: The judges could not eliminate any of the chefs due to a refrigerator malfunction that left Hosea's and Radhika's primary proteins unusable, creating an unlevel playing field.

                Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived in the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi joined by Michelin star-winning chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli. In a Diet Dr Pepper-inspired challenge, the chefs had 45 minutes to craft a sugar-free dessert so good, the judges would think there was "nothing diet about it." The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

                Elimination Challenge: Tom Colicchio visited the chefs in their apartment to split them into two groups by knife draw. As the winner of the Quickfire, Radhika was able to choose her team. The contestants were told that two chefs would be eliminated after the challenge, so they were allowed to cook whatever dish they thought would express their individuality. They were given $100 and 30 minutes to shop for a dinner for about 10 people, including the four judges and an unspecified number of mystery food experts. In their groups, the chefs were given two hours to cook at the Astor Center, where they served their dishes family-style to the judges. However, there were some twists: the challenge was a blind tasting (the judges did not know who cooked what dish), and the mystery judges were the contestants from the other group. The chefs also watched the tasting through a hidden camera and a television installed in the kitchen, revealed after serving their dishes. This gave the chefs a viewing of the honest assessment of their fellow contestants and their new permanent judge, British food critic Toby Young.

                • Group A: Eugene, Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Melissa, Radhika
                • Group B: Ariane, Carla, Jeff, Leah, Stephan
                  • WINNER: Jamie (Seared Scallops with Fennel, Garlic, Oranges & Olives)
                  • ELIMINATED: Eugene (Crispy Red Snapper with Tomato, Basil & DaikonFettuccine) and Melissa (Ahi Tuna Crudo Tacos)

                  Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived in the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi standing with Hung Huynh, the winner of Top Chef: Miami. She stated that chefs of their caliber should have no problem creating great food when using the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. However, she then removed a cloth to reveal a display of canned goods, as well as other cupboard and pantry staples. The chefs then had 15 minutes to create a delicious dish using only these ingredients. The winner received immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

                  Elimination Challenge: The chefs were asked to draw knives and split into three teams. The teams had to create a delicious, seasonal lunch for 16 people based on their assigned protein. Their menu had to be served family-style and include a dessert. They spent the night planning the menu. The next morning, instead of being taken to Whole Foods Market, they were driven to Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, a farm in Pocantico Hills, New York owned by chef Dan Barber. The chefs were provided cuts of fresh meat from the farm's stock and were allowed to choose fresh produce grown on the grounds. They were given three hours to prepare a lunch for the farmers and chefs from Stone Barns and their families in the kitchen of Barber's on-site restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

                  • Team Chicken: Carla, Jamie, Stefan
                  • Team Lamb: Ariane, Hosea, Leah
                  • Team Pork: Fabio, Jeff, Radhika
                    • WINNER: Team Chicken
                    • ELIMINATED: Ariane

                    Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived in the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi standing with successful restaurateur Stephen Starr. Lakshmi and Starr explained that part of opening a restaurant was to do a tasting for prospective investors. Therefore, the chefs had a tasting for Stephen. The chefs then had 30 minutes and complete access to the Top Chef pantry to create one dish that showcased their concept for a potential restaurant. The top two chefs were chosen to be the team leaders in the next Elimination Challenge. From this point on, the winners of the Quickfire Challenge no longer received immunity from elimination.

                    • WINNERS: Radhika (Pan-Seared Cod, Butter Braised Corn, Spinach & Chorizo with Cream Sauce) and Leah (TempuraPoussin with Dashi, Soy Sauce & Rice Wine Vinegar)

                    Elimination Challenge: For Restaurant Wars, the chefs, split into teams, had 24 hours to create a restaurant and open it for one night. Each team was given $5,000 to shop at Pier 1 Imports for decor, and $3,000 to spend on food at Whole Foods Market and Restaurant Depot, a restaurant provision warehouse. They had 6 hours to prep for the dinner service on location at Bridgewater's Restaurant, where they would later be serving 60 diners over a period of 5 hours. Radhika and Leah, as the Quickfire winners, got to choose and lead their teams. The winner of the challenge received a new suite of GE Monogram appliances.

                    • Sahana: Carla, Jamie, Jeff, Radhika
                      • Appetizer: Whole-Wheat Naan Bread with Garlic Oil Curried Carrot Soup with Smoked Paprika Oil & Raita Chickpea Cake with Seared Scallop, Masala Tomato Sauce & Arugula Salad
                      • Entrée: White Lentil Tabouli, Seared Snapper, Tomato Water & Pea Shoots Cinnamon & Saffron Braised Lamb Shank with Israeli Couscous
                      • Dessert: Spiced Chocolate Cake, Crème Fromage & CashewBrittle Fig & Minted Frozen Yogurts, Baklava Cigars
                        : Vegetable Roll with Mushrooms, Carrots, Cabbage & Sweet Chili Sauce
                    • Appetizer: Tuna & Salmon Sashimi, Radish Salad & Yuzu Vinaigrette Coconut Curry Bisque with Shrimp Dumplings
                    • Entrée: Braised Beef Short Ribs with Ginger, Vegetables & Beef Demi-Glace Seared Black Cod, Fresh Vegetables & Chinese Cabbage
                    • Third Course: Chocolate Rice Parfait, Grapefruit Jelly & Pineapple Lemongrass & Ginger Panna Cotta, Peach Purée & Ginger Honey
                    • Palate Cleanser: Frozen Mango, Bitter Chocolate & Mint Lollipop
                      • WINNER: Stefan
                      • ELIMINATED: Radhika

                      Quickfire Challenge: The chefs arrived in the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi standing with chef Scott Conant. She then presented a chart with a set of hidden secret ingredients on the top row, and hidden food groups on the left column. The contestants had to each pick squares on different rows and columns, after which, Lakshmi revealed their corresponding food group. She then uncovered the secret ingredients, disclosing that the chefs would all be working with oats. For their Quaker Oats Quickfire Challenge, they were given 45 minutes to create a unique dish that paired whole grain oats with the food groups they had chosen. The winner did not receive immunity, but instead gained an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.

                      Elimination Challenge: For their elimination, the chefs, united as one team, competed in the first ever "Top Chef Bowl", against "all-star" contestants from past seasons of the show. Each Season 5 contestant competed against an all-star chef in a "head-to-head" cook-off, celebrating the regional cuisine of one of seven NFL teams (see below) and using a set of their assigned region's ingredients, provided for them in a "mystery box". Stefan, as the Quickfire winner, was allowed to choose which team's food he would be making and the all-star chef he would be cooking against. The other chefs, in their teams, had 5 minutes to decide who would be cooking what regional cuisine. Then, they were given 2 hours to experiment with their ingredients and prep for the cook-off. The next day, they were given 20 minutes to create their dishes, head-to-head at the Institute of Culinary Education, in front of an audience including ICE students and the previously eliminated contestants. In each round, if a chef received the majority of the judges' votes, they got a touchdown, worth 7 points. If they received a majority of the votes of five culinary students tasting their dish, they got a field goal, worth 3 points. If the judges were split evenly over whose food was the best, the student tasters decided who received all 10 points. The winner of the challenge received two tickets to Super Bowl XLIII.

                        : Leah vs. Nikki (Season 4) : Hosea vs. Miguel (Season 1) : Carla vs. Andrew (Season 4) : Stefan vs. Andrea (Season 1) : Jamie vs. Camille (Season 3) : Jeff vs. Josie (Season 2) : Fabio vs. Spike (Season 4)
                        • WINNER: Carla (Crayfish & AndouilleGumbo over Stone-Ground Grits)
                        • ELIMINATED: Jeff (Rock Shrimp Ceviche with Sangria Sorbet)

                        Quickfire Challenge: The chefs walked into the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi standing with Eric Ripert, multi-award winning chef and owner of the highly acclaimed seafood restaurant, Le Bernardin. The chefs were tested on the precision and speed of their technique with a three-round fish filleting tournament. The chefs with the worst fillets of each round were eliminated, until one was left standing. The winner did not receive immunity, but instead gained an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.

                        • Round 1: The chefs had 5 minutes to clean and butterfly two sardines.
                        • Round 2: The remaining chefs had 5 minutes to clean and fillet an Arctic char.
                        • Round 3: The last two chefs had 10 minutes to skin, clean and fillet a fresh water eel.
                          • WINNER: Stefan

                          Elimination Challenge: Eric Ripert invited the chefs to a six-course lunch at his restaurant, Le Bernardin, with Tom Colicchio and himself. After eating, Tom revealed that their Elimination Challenge was to recreate the six-course menu that was just served to them. Stefan, as the Quickfire winner, got to choose which dish he would be cooking, while the other chefs had to draw knives. They had 2 hours to prep in the main kitchen at the restaurant, with the ingredients from the recipes provided for them. Then, they had 15 minutes to cook in the private dining room kitchen, after which they would serve their dishes to the judges. The winner received a copy of Eric Ripert's book On the Line, an opportunity to shadow Ripert at three of his restaurants for one week, starting at Le Bernardin, with a room at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and a trip to the Food & Wine Festival at Pebble Beach.

                          • WINNER: Stefan (Baked Lobster with Asparagus & Hollandaise Sauce)
                          • ELIMINATED: Jamie ( Sautéed Black Bass & Braised Celery with Serrano Ham Peppercorn Sauce)

                          Quickfire Challenge: The chefs walked into the Top Chef kitchen to see Padma Lakshmi next to Wylie Dufresne, culinary innovator and chef-owner of wd

                          50 in New York City. The chefs had one hour to create a dish incorporating eggs. The winner did not receive immunity, but instead gained an advantage in the Elimination Challenge.

                          Elimination Challenge: Lakshmi asked the chefs to draw knives, and they pulled the names of five different luminaries in the culinary world: celebrity chefs Lidia Bastianich, Marcus Samuelsson, Wylie Dufresne, Jacques Pépin, and James Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro. Since it was the last meal of the competition in New York, these "superstars" were asked to choose their "last meal."(see below). Carla, as the Quickfire winner, was allowed to switch stars and their associated dishes with another contestant she ultimately chose not to. The chefs had to create a five-course meal for these stars, as well as the judges, with each chef preparing the dish chosen by the chef whose name they selected. They had $300 and 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods Market, and then two hours to cook their dishes at the Capitale in Lower Manhattan, where the dinner was held. The winner received a bottle of Terlato Angel's Peak Wine and a three-day, two-night trip to the Terlato vineyard.

                          • Dufresne: Leah
                          • Samuelsson: Stefan
                          • Ungaro: Hosea
                          • Bastianich: Fabio
                          • Pépin: Carla
                            • WINNER: Fabio (Roasted Chicken with Herb-Roasted Potatoes & Caramelized Cipollini)
                            • ELIMINATED: Leah (Eggs Benedict with a Slow-Poached Egg & Bacon on Challah)

                            Quickfire Challenge: Six months after the taping of the previous episode, the chefs arrived at the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here, they saw host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, a television host and restaurant owner known as the "King of Creole Cuisine." Lakshmi told the remaining chefs that they could relax for this challenge, because they would not be competing instead, three other chefs would. Jamie, Jeff, and Leah, the three most recently eliminated contestants, arrived from the Top Chef house. Colicchio explained that in the spirit of the rebirth of New Orleans, the three chefs had been given an opportunity to return to the competition. For their Quickfire Challenge, they had one hour to create a dish featuring one of New Orleans's most celebrated ingredients: crawfish. The winner would join the four finalists in the Elimination Challenge, but would have to win that challenge to reach the season finale. In addition, they also received a copy of Emeril's new book, Emeril at the Grill.

                            Elimination Challenge: The five finalists headed to Mardi Gras World, a Mardi Gras warehouse, where they met with Lakshmi and Lagasse. She explained that their Elimination Challenge was to cater the Krewe of Orpheus Masquerade Ball at the New Orleans Museum of Art, for roughly 100 guests. They each prepared a cocktail and two dishes, one of which had to be in the Creole style of cooking. As Emeril explained, Creole cooking is the city version of Louisiana cooking, influenced by the French, Spanish, and African-American cultures. They had five hours to prep and cook at Emeril's Delmonico, with access to all of the ingredients stocked there, and one hour to set up at the museum and meet with their respective bartender provided to assist them in serving their cocktail. The winner received a new 2009 Toyota Venza.

                            • WINNER: Carla (Cranberry & Lime Spritzer Shrimp & Andouille Beignet with Creole Aioli Oyster Stew with Potato, Bacon & Scallions)
                            • ELIMINATED: Jeff (Cucumber Mojito Fried Oyster with Sausage & Arugula Crawfish Pot de Crème) and Fabio ("Trinitini:" Red Bell Pepper with Rum Sausage & Rabbit Maque Choux with Grits Caserecci Pasta with Crawfish & Crab Stew)

                            Elimination Challenge: After breakfast on the Creole Queen, the final three chefs arrived at the Historic New Orleans Collection to meet with Lakshmi and Colicchio. They were instructed to cook the best three-course meal of their lives, with no restrictions, for twelve judges. Similar to past seasons, each contestant was allowed to pick a sous chef, which included the runners-up of previous seasons: Marcel Vigneron (Season 2), Casey Thompson (Season 3), and Richard Blais (Season 4). The chefs drew knives to select the order in which they would select their sous chefs. Hosea had the first pick and chose to work with Richard. Stefan had the second pick and chose Marcel, leaving Carla to work with Casey. The chefs and their sous chefs then had two hours to prep at the Audubon Tea Room, and another three hours to cook their dishes at Commander's Palace, where the dinner would be held. On the day of the meal, they were told to create an additional hors d'œuvre using one of three meats: redfish, crab, or alligator. A king cake was used to determine which meat each chef would use the chef that found the doll received their choice of protein, and then assigned the other proteins to the other two chefs. Hosea found it, and chose redfish as his protein. He assigned Carla to use crab and Stefan to work with alligator.

                            Recipe Summary

                            • 2 gallons warm water
                            • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
                            • 2 cups kosher salt
                            • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
                            • 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
                            • 6 bay leaves
                            • Large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley stems (leaves reserved for turkey)
                            • 1 (12- to 14-pound) fresh turkey, neck and giblets removed
                            • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 tablespoon), at room temperature
                            • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
                            • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
                            • 1 lemon, zested and halved, divided
                            • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
                            • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
                            • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
                            • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
                            • 3 celery stalks, large diced
                            • 1 large yellow onion, quartered and petals separated
                            • 1/2 cup dried cremini mushrooms (about 3/8 ounce)
                            • 2 shallots, halved
                            • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
                            • 5 rosemary sprigs
                            • 4 sage sprigs
                            • 3 marjoram sprigs
                            • 2 cups water

                            Stir together 2 gallons warm water, vinegar, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, and parsley stems in a 14-quart stockpot until sugar and salt dissolve, about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Let brine cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

                            Place turkey in brine, cover, and refrigerate 12 to 24 hours. Remove turkey from brine discard brine. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together butter, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Using your fingers, loosen and lift skin from turkey breast and thighs without totally detaching skin spread some of the butter mixture under skin. Carefully replace skin, and spread remaining butter mixture over skin of breast and thighs. Drizzle turkey with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place turkey, breast side up, on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Toss together carrots, celery, onion, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl scatter vegetable mixture around turkey in roasting pan. Stuff turkey cavity with lemon halves, dried mushrooms, shallots, garlic, rosemary, sage, and marjoram. Tie legs together with kitchen twine tuck wing tips under.

                            Roast turkey in preheated oven until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh registers 155°F, about 2 hours. Transfer turkey to a carving board remove rack from roasting pan. Let turkey rest until thermometer registers 165°F, about 30 minutes. Scoop out herb-and-mushroom mixture from inside of turkey, and add to roasting pan with vegetables. Set roasting pan on stovetop over medium-high stir in 2 cups water, and simmer, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer over a bowl discard solids. Carve turkey, and serve with gravy.

                            Recipe Summary

                            • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
                            • 1 tablespoon olive oil
                            • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
                            • 6 fresh sage leaves, torn into small pieces
                            • 1 cup well-shaken and stirred canned coconut milk
                            • 1/2 cup heavy cream
                            • 4 large egg yolks
                            • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
                            • 1 teaspoon black pepper
                            • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
                            • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
                            • 3 tablespoons brown butter
                            • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

                            Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut a small slice off skin side of each squash half so they will sit flat while baking. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet.

                            Drizzle squash with oil, and season with kosher salt sprinkle evenly with sage. Roast until squash is tender and begins to brown, about 40 minutes. Let squash cool completely, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

                            Whisk together coconut milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, pepper, orange zest, and fleur de sel in a large bowl until well combined. Pour coconut mixture evenly into well of each squash. Bake at 300°F until custard begins to set and jiggles slightly like gelatin, about 55 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours. (As squash cools, custard will set up further.) Cut squash halves in half transfer to a platter. Drizzle brown butter over top, and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.

                            'Top Chef' Alumni Talk Biggest Regrets and Life After Competition

                            Plus: the Cheftestants reveal whether they've mastered their elimination dishes.

                            Over eleven seasons of our award-winning show Top Chef, we've met dozens of culinary geniuses—and it isn't just the winners who've gone on to have incredible careers. As the finale of Season 11 gets set to ignite tomorrow (tune in at 10/9c), we caught up with runners-up and fan favorites from all seasons to find out their biggest regrets, the lessons they learned, and how their lives have changed since the competition. You may also be surprised to learn which Cheftestants obsessed over the dishes that led to their elimination.

                            As the clock counts down until the next Top Chef is revealed, be sure to catch up on all the action from our Emmy-award winning series Last Chance Kitchen.

                            Carla Hall, Season 5 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has life changed for you since Top Chef?
                            It's been huge. I always tell people "It's because of Top Chef. " Now, I'm on The Chew and fans can see me everyday during the week. I stopped catering. It's been a whirlwind!

                            What was the toughest thing about doing both Top Chef and All-Stars?
                            Being away from your support system is always really hard. But because I've always worked away from home it wasn't as hard for me. Being judged was the hardest part. There were so many times I wanted to go home when people started talking about my food. Another part that's hard is you meet these people who are your friends, but at the end of the day it's a competition.

                            What's the biggest lesson you learned?
                            I found my voice. You're always working for somebody and making other people's food as a caterer, and I never thought of what my voice was until Top Chef. Then I realized I'm southern and I do Southern food. Now I don't apologize for that.

                            Any ingredients or cuisines you were terrified to cook on Top Chef
                            Let me count the ways! There's no way I would make it on Top Chef now. Breaking down half a cow? There are so many things. In my season, it was eel. I didn't have to do it thankfully.

                            Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
                            Of course! You go through it in your head so many times. It was a beef dish. I also did a cheese souflee and the oven was too hot and that was a mess. For All Stars, I did this pork dish and it was overcooked. I had thrown it in the frier and I knew that was a bad move. And my sides, I made a compote that was too sweet--an apple and spicy sweet potato mash and I didn't have enough acid on that dish.

                            Have you made any of those dishes since?
                            As a matter of fact, the spicy sweet potato mash is in my cookbook.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            It's too much! But the crazy thing is I loved doing All Stars.Oh my god! All the people I was rooting for I got to know through that season and I got to know them as real people. I loved that bit. But at the end of the day, after all the challenges, you knew you were staying with them. It's fun to do it with your friends.

                            Mike Isabella, Season 6 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has life changed since being on Top Chef
                            It's changed a lot. When I was on All Stars, I had just signed a lease to open up my first restaurant, Graffiato in DC. I was still nervous trying to raise money while I was on the show. But once I finished, that restaurant opened up. And there was a line out the door for three months! It was a huge success. And now I own another restaurant Kapnos, a Greek place. We're also doing G Sandwich at the Nationals baseball stadium. And I'm opening up three projects in 2014.

                            What was the toughest challenge about being on the show?
                            Getting eliminated on my first season. I didn't let that go for a long time. You're stressed about it and you watch it and then you break down. You still have the support from your fans and friends, but that was the hardest.

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination?
                            Yeah. We went to Tom Colicchio's Craft steakhouse. And I was planning a dish, but then they said you couldn't use any meat. We had to make a vegetarian dish. So I made one with three ingredients: leeks, carrots and potatoes. I messed it up. Everything was wrong.

                            Have you cooked with those ingredients since?
                            I went back to work after that happened and I started working with leeks and carrots everyday. I was so pissed at myself. But when I went back to All-Stars, my challenge was to cook with leeks, carrots and potatoes. I was trained on it!

                            Any strategies while filming to intimidate your competitors?
                            On both seasons, I would always try to talk some smack. I had a big resume coming in. I had worked for four different James Beard chefs. And I tried to get at them. When I did All-Stars, I became friends with everyone and focused on myself. But it was easy to get into their heads [laughs].

                            Dale Levitski, Season 3 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has life changed for you since Top Chef?
                            It's definitely opened up a lot of doors, not necessarily with getting jobs but in validating a lot of stuff and getting attention and getting people into the restaurant. It has helped. I was fearful that it would box me into a TV chef douche bag. We didn't know the phenomenon it would become.

                            Have you caught any of this season?
                            I have not. It's stressful to watch! It's not entertaining for me. I want to be in the challenge—it's such a blast. If I could make a career out of Top Chef challenges, it would be so much fun.

                            What's the biggest thing you've learned?
                            Humility. Being told in no uncertain terms that what you made sucked on national TV will teach you a lesson or two.

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination?
                            On All-Stars, I did a veal thing with some french toast and a puree. It was a total disaster.

                            Have you made the dish since?
                            I now serve it at my restaurant, actually. And it's awesome.

                            Did you have a strategy to psych out your opponents?
                            I tried not to let being sequestered get to me. Some people got ridiculously paranoid and Big Brother-ish. For me, I just went with it and was relaxed and made it a life experience.

                            Any ingredient or cuisine you were afraid to have to cook?
                            I don't have cake recipes memorized. Cook traditional Asian? Just send me home now!

                            What's next for you?
                            I do private parties and consulting (I hate that word). I'm also doing some product development for a major food company. That kind of stuff. And I'm gearing up to get back into restaurants with a different type of restaurant group that's totally private.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            Oh yeah! I would definitely do All-Stars again. I think I was in a weird place at the time. My restaurant then was six months old, my mom had died. there were so many life things going on. I wasn't in the right place. But when you put 15 All-Stars on. behind the scenes it's 10 times more difficult.

                            Chris Crary, Season 9

                            How has life changed since Top Chef
                            A lot! Before, I was working 60-80 hours a week in a kitchen slaving away and no one knew who I was. Now, I'm a chef for hire at Kitchit. I've been lucky enough to take a few months off from kitchen life to travel and go to Europe and do all that. I got sponsored by a beer company out of Thailand. I stayed in a five-star resort and hung out and drank beer and ate good food. It was amazing.

                            What was the toughest experience about being on the show?
                            Not having control and not being able to do what I wanted to do. Not being able to call anybody or go online. Chef are control freaks and that's why they're chefs. And when you take 16 crazy control freaks and you put them in a tent by themselves for five hours a day, they're going to go crazy!

                            Any ingredients or cuisines you were afraid you'd have to cook?
                            A cake. We got that challenge and had to make two quinceanera cakes. Desserts are always difficult for chefs. Baking is such a science. Preparing savory foods, you're like, 'I'll add a bit of this or that.'

                            What's the biggest lesson you learned from being on the show?
                            Just having that thing where you let go of being in charge. Not having that, you learn a bit about yourself and patience.

                            Do you remember the dish that landed you in Last Chance Kitchen?
                            It was the salty ribs at the Salt Lick. I made the rub for all of our meats and apparently during the 13 hours of being cooked on the grill, they got a little too salty.

                            Have you cooked ribs since?
                            Yes! I'm making them for my girlfriend's birthday, for 50 people. I've perfected how to cook them.

                            What's next for you?
                            I'm working on doing my own crazy restaurant in Los Angeles. It's a distillery diner that distills it's own vodka and whiskey. But there are so many rules from prohibition I'm dealing with. I'm still thinking about the name. I may call the alcohol part Alibi and the diner Chris' Diner. Something simple and old school.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            In a heart beat.

                            Brooke Williamson, Season 10

                            How has life changed since being on Top Chef?
                            It's been busy. I'm opening a third restaurant next month. I had two restaurants before the show and then after they got busy as all hell! We did business I never thought we'd be capable of. I used to also get recognized on the street a lot for a good six months after the show was over. Now, I feel like people recognize me sometimes and I can hear them talking behind my back more [laughs]. The hype has died down a little but the activity hasn't.

                            Are you thankful for the experience?
                            Oh, absolutely! I didn't feel that was my career path with the TV thing. I wasn't confident I would be able to perform in front of cameras. I was afraid of embarrassing myself on national TV. I can definitely say I embarrassed myself a few times, but I'm still thankful I did it. It's so unexpected how it changes your life.

                            Did you have any strategies to intimidate your opponents?
                            I feel like people expected it but that's not how I work. I remember in the finale with Kristen [Kish], we were en route to the finale and she had a headache. I offered her Advil and she thought I was trying to drug her! [Laughs]

                            Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
                            Chicken wings and I thought they were tasty and really good. I don't feel like I did anything wrong. But the last dish I put out, which was ultimately the one I lost with, was the snapper dish.

                            Have you cooked either since?
                            I have chicken wings on my menu and people love them! We sell a ton of them.

                            Any cuisines or ingredients you were afraid you'd have to cook?
                            I was afraid of a few things but none of them had to do with food. I'm afraid of heights and boats and I had to go to the top of the Space Needle and get on a cruise!

                            What's next for you?
                            My new spot! My husband and I are opening a restaurant concept. It opens at the end of March or beginning of April. It's like a beach community restaurant in Playa del Rey in Los Angeles. It's called Playa Provisions. There's three different rooms: a breakfast-lunch place with a creamery, a whiskey bar, and an east coast-style dining room. I also have Hudson House and the Tripel in Playa del Rey.

                            What's the biggest lesson you've learned?
                            That I'm actually great under pressure. I can work quickly and think quickly when I need to. I always thought I was the person that needs to work out the menu, but now I don't. I was just at Sundance and I was doing beef cheeks for a 300 person dinner. They were frozen and a block of ice. You learn to deal with situations that would make most people throw up their hands.

                            Catch up on all the action from our Emmy-award winning series Last Chance Kitchen and see who's facing off on the final episode below.

                            Click to catch up with Tiffany Derry, Fabio Viviani, Casey Thompson, Stefan Richter, Tiffani Faison, Ed Cotton and Sarah Grueneberg.

                            Tiffany Derry, Season 7 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has life changed since being on the show?
                            Oh my god. You will never understand how it can change until it happens. Everybody all of a sudden just knew who I was—it's crazy how it happens. Just cooking for a lifetime without doing Top Chef would never have given me the exposure of getting to know the amazing people around the world.

                            What's the craziest experience been post-show?
                            Just last week I met Kristen Stewart from Twilight while cooking at Sundance with Brooke Williamson. Her exact words were, 'I f---ing love Top Chef!' She was so excited.

                            Have you watched any seasons since your stint?
                            Yes. I feel like it takes me back emotionally and how I felt. I am in those people's shoes! I'm like, 'No, don't do that!' I feel like I'm back in the competition every single time.

                            What was the toughest challenge about competing?
                            Before All-Stars, I got married and three days later I was back filming. And getting to the finale, I was losing steam. I felt like I didn't have more in me. It was weird. That's not normally who I am. I'll never forget while being on Ellis Island and seeing my mom come out. normally, that would make me cry. But seeing her just gave me so much life!

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination?
                            I'm not truly over it. For Season 7, I did a roasted halibut and a mussels with curry and I did vegetables. I remember during the prep time I put my mussels in the fridge and the next day, the fridge froze everything in there. I couldn't use them because they weren't alive. And all of my herbs and tomatoes were frozen. I kept thinking, 'OK, it's not over.' But it was over. It was hard. It was hard! I can still hear Padma say, 'You know, if you had the mussels, this dish would've been a different dish.'

                            Have you cooked mussels since?
                            I have! You have to conquer that fear. For Season 8, in the very first challenge, we had to cook the dish that got us eliminated and I was like, 'Oh, hell no! I'm not letting this one go!'

                            What was your favorite dish you cooked?
                            Pork buns. I would always do it in the restaurant. I made them during the dim sum challenge and Tom was so disappointed in everyone but on the inside I was like, 'I can really do this!' And in that challenge everyone went down. I remember I was just cooking my food and grabbing and cooking and getting out of the weeds and I realized, 'Y'all, this ain't nothing!'

                            What's next?
                            I'm doing a few TV shows. I do a show called Bar Rescue and I'm a regular expert on this new show called Hungry Investors. And I'm writing a book! It's classics from around the world, but I don't want to give away too much.

                            What's the biggest lesson you've learned?
                            I've learned to cook whatever I want. Don't be afraid to do something different. Doing Top Chef opened my eyes to so many things happening in the world. Every day I had to push and do a new dish. And every day being told, 'What else do you have?'—it pushed me to a whole other level. The day I left Season 7, I sat on a plane and jotted down tons of ideas on three sheets of a legal pad: caramel, fish sauce, halibut. full-on menu items! I just found it the other day, actually. It was amazing to read.

                            Casey Thompson, Season 3 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has life changed since Top Chef?
                            It opened up so many doors. The industry has become super saturated with people wanting to get into this career and something like Top Chef helps you stand out. And because I was on during an early season, it was more of an open playing field back then. I had a chance to grasp as much of the career as I wanted to.

                            What was the toughest experience about being on the show?
                            Not knowing what's coming your way! That's ridiculous anxiety. Like, 'What are they going to throw at us tomorrow? How are they going to tweak it to make it harder?' And living in a house with a bunch of crazy, drunk adults—and I mean that in the best sense possible—that's tricky, too.

                            Any ingredients or cuisine you were afraid you'd have to prepare?
                            I was really lucky: I never had to make a cake. I felt for the Cheftestants when they announced, 'We're doing a wedding! And someone has to do the cake!' If it was me, I would've made a boxed cake and an icing. That gave me anxiety.

                            Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
                            On All-Stars, it was the infamous chicken feet. We were in Chinatown and we had to make dim sum. I had to do the chicken feet. It was such a nightmare.

                            What would you have changed?
                            I would stop being so nice. That was my downfall. I left my food and I forgot this is a competition about the food.

                            And what dish eliminated you for Season 7?
                            It was a whole meal. And the pork belly dish got me in the most trouble. We had to leave the kitchen for an hour to receive our additional challenge. I left it in the oven and it dried up. It was inedible.

                            Have you cooked that dish since?
                            Of course! I have to do it to make sense of it. And my pork belly is one of the best things I do.

                            What's next?
                            I'm opening two spots: one is called Aveline and the other place is the European. They're due to open this spring. And they're right in the heart of San Francisco.

                            Tiffani Faison, Season 1 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            How has your life changed since Top Chef?
                            It has and it hasn't. Obviously the exposure is enormous and can be used in incredible ways. I've had the opportunity to launch a restaurant that gained attention when most restaurants have to work years to find. The work after that to make it successful is all separate from the show. It's made me a public person which comes with a significant amount of responsibility and also the detractors of being alert and careful with my words and actions.

                            What's the biggest lesson you learned from the show?
                            Don't take it all too seriously. Nothing is worth doing without it being fun and adding good things to your life. It's not that serious.

                            What was the toughest challenge about doing both shows?
                            Top Chef was just the aftermath. Having the country point at me and think of me in a way I'd never considered myself was hurtful and shocking. All-Stars was an easier experience because my goals were different. Obviously I would have liked to have lasted longer, but that was out of my hands.

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination?
                            I remember them all. It's hard to say what got me eliminated for the first season—I did 10 different dishes. For All-Stars, it was bluefish with summer squash salad.

                            Have you tried to cook them since?
                            Absolutely not. They weren't interesting to keep banging my head against the wall.

                            Did you have any strategy to intimidate your competition?
                            I don't think I had a strategy, maybe I should have. I think I approached both times with a Boy Scout's kind of "Do your Best" mentality. I certainly saw others with strategy and intimidation techniques, but that's not my thing.

                            Anything you were afraid might be sprung upon you in competition?
                            Nah, whatever comes, comes. It's just like a day at work.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            I'd like to think I'd stop torturing myself, but it's just so much fun!

                            Stefan Richter, Season 5 and Season 10

                            Has your life changed?
                            Of course. It has been a great ride, I got 5 restaurants I have a great team, happy life, a few bucks to spare and my own show.

                            What's the biggest lesson you've learned?
                            Be who you are and enjoy the ride. Enjoy your seven seconds because casting for season 12 is going to go on. Out of sight, out of mind. I still have four minutes left.

                            Toughest experience about doing the competition?
                            Just being away from home, your phone, and chill time. It eats at you. That was rough.

                            Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
                            You can ask anybody. It is a blur. I don't remember anything [laughs].

                            Would you do the show again?
                            Maybe. But I would love to do a survival version of it in the woods and you have to eat to survive. I'd love to do six months in the middle of nowhere.

                            Ed Cotton, Season 7

                            How has life changed since being on the show?
                            A lot of things. More opportunities for travel and seeing parts of the world I never would've been able to see otherwise. I went to Malaysia to write recipes for the tourism board. That was awesome.

                            What was the toughest experience about Top Chef
                            Just trying to execute the food that I really wanted to do in such a short amount of time.

                            Any challenges that were particularly tough?
                            I thought I would've done better with the Quickfires due to my experience on Iron Chef America as sous chef for Cat Cora. But some of them were very difficult because it's hard to come up with something off the cuff super fast. And something noteworthy.

                            What's your favorite dish you created?
                            I did a spicy rice cake with pork bolognese, a sweet and sour pork. I really excelled towards the finale. I really embraced Singapore and everything they had to offer. So that was a really fun dish to make.

                            Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
                            I think it was my lack of dessert experience. We were forced to create a dessert—no ifs ands or buts. I should've thought a little bit more. I made a sticky toffee pudding with whipped cream. It didn't jive well with the rest of the meal.

                            Have you made it since?
                            No. But I do enjoy it. I have definitely learned more about pastries and desserts in the hope I get called back.

                            What's next?
                            I'm Executive Chef at Sotto 13 in New York City. We have a wood burning oven and we do new takes on classic Italian dishes, and we're working with cool local ingredients.

                            So you would do Top Chef again?
                            It was a great overall experience. I would!

                            Sarah Grueneberg, Season 9

                            How has your life changed since Top Chef?
                            It has changed more than ever expected. The sightings at malls and grocery stores are always a fun surprise. The competition pushed my career 10 years forward, from where I would have if I never did Top Chef.

                            What’s the biggest lesson you learned?
                            That I really can do anything. I have to dig deep and believe!

                            What was the toughest experience?
                            The crazy hours, stress, the element of surprise always around the corner, and second guessing yourself every challenge.

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination? Have you tried to cook them post-show?
                            My finale meal was a turning point for me, and how I cook. I love that meal. I still cook those dishes. They will absolutely be on my menu at my new restaurant.

                            What was your strategy for the competitions? Did you have any techniques to psych out your opponents?
                            Before the show I spoke to a life coach. She said that whenever I was nervous, or going a mile a minute, to take a deep breath and hold it, then slowly exhale. It helped so much and allowed me to make wise moves! The funny thing about this competition is that I was competing against myself! I think I psyched myself out more than my opponents.

                            Any cuisine or ingredient you were terrified to cook with?
                            I was definitely worried about having to cook Indian food! When I cooked with Floyd Cardoz, it was awesome. I love Indian food and am no longer worried about it.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            Without a doubt. Yes.

                            Fabio Viviani, Season 5 and Season 8: All-Stars

                            What’s the biggest lesson you learned?
                            To stick with what you know.

                            What was the toughest experience?
                            What’s that? It was easy! Everybody was freaking out and I was having a ball.

                            Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination?
                            Oh yes. In Season 5, my dishes were awesome and I still got eliminated over Stefan. And in All-Stars, I made a burger that was more like a meatball.

                            Any ingredients you were fearful of having to cook with on the show?
                            Cilantro. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

                            Did you have a strategy to psych out your opponents during competition?
                            I made them all an offer they couldn’t refuse. At the end of the day, I am Italian.

                            Would you do Top Chef again?
                            Yes, if they ask me to do a Fan Favorite competition.

                            Catch up on all the action from our Emmy-award winning series Last Chance Kitchen and see who's facing off on the final episode below.

                            Watch the video: Xhibition Kitchen Presents: Kristen Kish (January 2022).