James Rigato’s philosophy on cooking stems from a lifelong love of food and an appreciation for the diverse agricultural area in which he was raised. His Italian grandparents were early culinary influences, exposing him to the Italian culture and art of handcrafted cuisine that has shaped his approach to the chef profession. Chef Rigato entered the restaurant business at age 14 as a dishwasher at a local diner. After enrolling in Schoolcraft College’s Culinary program at 17, he spent the next eight years working in some of metro Detroit’s finer restaurants, including Morel’s, Shiraz, Rugby Grille at The Townsend Hotel and Bacco Ristorante. At age 26, Chef Rigato opened The Root Restaurant & Bar. His pursuit to localize Michigan’s food economy stretches into involvement with local schools, hospitals, libraries and other organizations to create a necessary and sustainable change for the state. Chef Rigato’s contemporary American cuisine with a Michigan focus has garnered regional and national attention, including a Food & Wine "The People’s Best New Chef: Great Lakes" nomination and The Detroit Free Press 2012 Restaurant of the Year award. In 2013, Rigato earned the title of Best Chef by Hour Detroit and was featured on the Cooking Channel’s new series America’s Best Bites. In 2014 he was awarded Best Chef by Hour Detroit for a second year in a row as well as Best Restaurant for General Excellence. An avid poet and advocate for all things Michigan, if not working he can be found in some corner of the state exploring, cycling, kayaking, eating or camping.
The Latest from James
Behind-the-Scenes: The Judges Go Shopping
After a Sudden Death Quickfire with an added twist, the judges do the shopping as the chefs cook for 75 superfans.
Cheers: The Dishes at Via Matta
The chefs reinvent bar snacks for their Quickfire Challenge at Cheers, then team up to make three-course Italian meals.
The Chefs Drink Beer, Go Gluten-Free
The chefs cook for George Wendt at the legendary Cheers bar, then face a double-elimination as they cook a three-course meal.
The Dishes From Top Chef's Fenway Feast
The chefs face another Sudden Death Quickfire, then serve ballpark snack-inspired cuisine at the Green Monster.
Behind-the-Scenes of Top Chef at Fenway
The cheftestants serve their ballpark-best at the legendary Green Monster, after facing a Tea Party-themed Quickfire.
Feeding Boston's Finest -- The Dishes
The cheftestants cooked a land and sea-themed dishes, then teamed up to create a meal Boston's police and fire departments.
Behind-the-Scenes with Boston's Finest
See pics from the chefs "one if by land, two if by sea" Quickfire and their meal for Boston's police and fire departments.