It's been almost a year since Kristen Kish emerged as both the Last Chance Kitchen and Top Chef Season 10 winner. And in the heady days since her victory—she's the second female to win the competition—her life has been a whirlwind. She's traveled the globe (London was a favorite destination) and been named the Chef de Cuisine at the Boston restaurant Menton.
As a new Top Chef is about to be crowned (tune in Wednesday at 10/9c for Part 1 of the finale), the Dish caught up with Kristen to talk about how life has changed, her Last Chance Kitchen victory, and the most valuable lesson she learned from the competition.
How has your life changed since winning the show?
Oh god. Where do I start? Anything that was normal is now not normal. My old daily routine has completely gone away. But all for the better. I get to travel, which is what I love to do. Getting recognized is something I'd never thought would happen. I'm just a chef! All the things that come from being on television are things I never thought would have happened.
Best experience traveling since Top Chef?
I went to London for a big conference dinner. That was spectacular. That's a whole new level of Chef that's so amazing. And I'm going to Thailand at the end of July, which will be interesting. Plus I've been to alot of little U.S. cities.
It's been a little less than a year since you were crowned Top Chef for Season 10. Do you have nightmares about stressful Quickfire Challenges these days?
I don't have any negative things about it but the fact that my phone was taken away and having to live with the Cheftestants for so long...all those little things. But at the end of the day, we were a select group of people and I got to experience something phenomenal. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What's the most valuable skill you picked up from the show?
Working with new people. I can work faster and under pressure, sure, but being able to work with new people everyday and people you don't know very well, that's a skill I can take wherever I go.
You had an amazing run on Last Chance Kitchen, which led to your ultimate victory. How stressful was that experience?
Having to take a break from Top Chef and not knowing if I would make it back in was very stressful. But it seemed a bit more relaxed. You can look at it one of two ways: stressful or a good experience. I tried to take a relaxed approach regardless of whether I got kicked off and I had a great time.
Do you remember the dish that landed you in LCK?
Oh yeah. It was a combination of the Restaurant Wars challenge. The things I was in charge of...nothing was perfect. I just couldn't get my concept across to people. It was taking classic French dishes and putting my spin on it. I would never open up a restaurant like that but being on the show and narrowing it down would be a good way to show my creativity.
Have you gone back to master any dish from the competition after the show?
Not really. When I think of new dishes for the menu and "real life," I like to put a bit more thought into them. Being in Massachusetts, I'm thinking seasonally and what I have available.
Did you have a gaming strategy among the Chefs...a tactic you used to psych them out?
Oh god--I don't know how to do that. I was just trying to make it one step further and to not overthink anything. That's what got me there in the first place. When I walked in, I was a ball of nerves with my insecurities and I just tried to do my best.
What'd you think of this season's competition?
Stephanie Cmar is my friend and I got the run down from her. I watched one full episode from beginning to end and I very quickly picked out the people that weren't my favorites. I am biased [laughs].
I get this question alot. I try not to think so far down the road. Sometimes it's not a smart thing but if I put these goals in place--specific ones like opening a restaurant--I get clouded and if I don't make it happen, I'll get upset. As cheesy as this sounds, I just want to be happy. I want to cook and be happy.
What the last episode of this year's Last Chance Kitchen and tell us: what was your favorite competition of the season?