Pack your knives—Top Chef is headed to Boston!
Bravo's Emmy and James Beard Award-winning series is back for a 12th Season and the search for America's best to culinary talents will invade New England. The action—led by head judge Tom Colicchio, judges Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and host Padma Lakshmi—ignites October 15th. And this time around, Richard Blais will make his debut as a recurring judge, offering the Cheftestants guidance from a chef and former competitor's point of view.
This season features some of the franchise’s “hungriest” chefs battling it out against the backdrop of Bean Town’s flourishing culinary scene. The chefs will go knife-to-knife at iconic Boston locales including Fenway Park, Plimoth Plantation and The Bull and Finch Pub, which served as the inspiration for “Cheers” and where exterior shots for the show were filmed. Mirroring Boston’s own rich history, Season 12 is full of firsts, including the first meal ever served on the field underneath the Green Monster, a challenge using only ingredients that would have been on hand at the first Thanksgiving meal, the first “Top Chef” food festival and the first fan appreciation challenge where fans of the show were invited to dine inside the “Top Chef” kitchen. The show will also feature a challenge highlighting Boston’s finest from the police and fire departments.
The stakes are higher than ever as “Top Chef” introduces sudden death Quickfire challenges that occur without warning throughout the season and a fiery judges table that puts every chef on the spot. The chefs will be tasked with serving up food for top entertainers, culinary stars and celebrity guest judges including: actress Emmy Rossum, Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, MLB Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, actor George Wendt (Norm from “Cheers”), “Watch What Happens Live” host Andy Cohen, Todd English, Barbara Lynch, Jasper White, Ming Tsai, Jacques Pepin, Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette.
So...who are the brave competitors competing for culinary bragging rights? Meet them below.
HOMETOWN: Boston, MA
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Regal Beagle
CULINARY EDUCATION: Associates degree culinary arts, Johnson and Wales
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Warm Caramel Apple Cider
As Executive Chef at Brookline’s award-winning Regal Beagle, Stacy Cogswell’s menu epitomizes what the much-loved neighborhood joint is known for: exceptional, upscale comfort food with a creative and chef-driven twist. Stacy’s early-and-often exposure to the homemade foods and flavors of New England’s changing seasons sparked her passion for cooking and inspired her to enroll in Johnson & Wales’ Culinary School. After graduation, she travelled the US and the world uncovering and learning from many different local traditions. Her extensive travels brought her through Singapore, the Caribbean, along the eastern US and ultimately to the local kitchens of two world-renowned chefs to hone her skills and further develop her own unique cooking style. Her style focuses on seasonality.
HOMETOWN: TACOMA, WASHINGTON
PROFESSION: CHEF- BOW & TRUSS
CULINARY EDUCATION: NONE
Aaron works as the Chef of Bow & Truss in North Hollywood. He grew up in Tacoma, Washington and arrived in Los Angeles just over a year ago. He believes that cooking is something that all people share. Regardless of ethnicity, culture or heritage, we come together as one at the dinner table. Aaron has a passion for Asian and new American cuisine. He believes that food is nostalgic and triggers strong memories and that play into his style of nodding to classic dishes with modernized approaches.
Hometown: New York, NY
Profession: Executive Chef at Hometown Bar-B-Que
Culinary Education: A.O.S. Culinary Arts, CIA
Favorite Simple Fall Desert Recipe: Sticky Sweet Pecan Pie
Adam works as Executive Chef at Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn. His strong connection to his hometown of New York is evident in everything he does. Spending much of his childhood in his grandparents’ kitchen, Adam’s surroundings helped him develop a love of food shared by his Italian-American grandmother and professional chef grandfather. Adam firmly believes that food plays a part in many of the most important memories of our lives. Having worked for many of New York City’s premier chefs, his culinary inspiration is deep and varied. Humility, a relentless thirst for knowledge and a sharp knife are all qualities he says you need to get started in the restaurant industry.
HOMETOWN: Portland, Oregon
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine, Imperial and Portland Penny Diner
Doug Adams is the Chef de Cuisine of Imperial and Portland Penny Diner, James Beard Award-winning Chef Vitaly Paley’s renowned restaurants in Portland, Oregon. Adams is a chef full of creative energy, and his career path reflects his insatiable drive to cook and cook well. Growing up in Tyler, Texas, Adams spent time in Missoula, Montana, and eventually moved to Portland in 2008, where he attended Western Culinary Institute (now Le Cordon Bleu) and first worked at Lucier restaurant on Portland’s South Waterfront. With determination and skill, Adams quickly moved on to work for James Beard Award-winner Andy Ricker of Pok Pok and recent Food & Wine Best New Chef Gregory Denton, then of Metrovino (now Ox). In 2011, Adams began working under Paley’s mentorship and tutelage at Paley’s Place, and in 2012, after Paley opened Imperial and Portland Penny Diner, Adams was promoted to Sous Chef at both restaurants. Being included on the opening team at Imperial is one of the accomplishments Adams is most proud of in his career thus far. Adams has put his drive to good use under Paley’s leadership, recently selected as the first featured chef for Culinaria, a new dinner series that aims to bridge the gap between food and art lovers. In 2013, Adams won a competition leading up to the famed Wild About Game event along with fellow Imperial chefs. In his spare time, Adams enjoys playing the bluegrass guitar, fly fishing and exploring the incredible ingredients of the Pacific Northwest.
HOMETOWN: Washington, D.C.
PROFESSION: Executive chef/partner at Kapnos in Washington DC
CULINARY EDUCATION: Culinary Institute of America
George Pagonis is executive chef and partner at Mike Isabella's first Greek restaurant, Kapnos, in Washington, DC. The upscale restaurant put inland Greek cuisine, including daily whole animal roasting, on the map in the nation’s capital when it opened in 2013. Before opening Kapnos, Pagonis served as chef de cuisine at Mike Isabella’s Italian-inspired flagship, Graffiato, also in Washington, DC. Prior to joining Graffiato, Chef George cooked at Aureole in New York under Christophe Bellanca and Marcus Ware. Before that, the fluent Greek-speaker worked at Jose Andres’ Zaytinya, where he first cooked under Mike Isabella. His first tour of duty in a fine dining kitchen was at New York’s Le Cirque. Chef George attended the University of Mary Washington and though he followed that up with a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, he first earned his kitchen stripes at The Four Seasons, a Greek diner owner by his father in an Alexandria, Virginia.
HOMETOWN: Portland, Oregon
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Departure Restaurant + Lounge
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A including an internship with the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant empire Confirmed
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Pears Roasted with Ginger, Black Pepper and Cinnamon, Coconut Ice Cream
Gregory Gourdet is the trendsetting Executive Chef at Portland's popular pan-Asian restaurant, Departure, located on the roof of the luxury Nines hotel. Gourdet was a pre-med student with a Mohawk when he discovered a passion for cooking. The Mohawk stuck with him, but Gourdet made the leap from medicine to menus and secured a coveted internship at the prestigious Jean-Georges Restaurant Empire, eventually working his way up to Sous Chef at Jean-Georges. Later, as Chef de Cuisine at modern Chinese eatery, Restaurant 66, Gourdet cultivated an affinity for the Asian cuisines and flavors for which he is known at Departure. A dedicated marathon runner, Bikram yoga devotee, and triathlete, Gourdet brings his health-mindedness to the table as well, offering guests the option of delicious gluten-free, vegan, and paleo menus at Departure, in addition to the nightly dinner menu.
HOMETOWN: Howell, Michigan. Lives in White Lake, Michigan
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, The Root Restaurant & Bar
CULINARY EDUCATION: Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. Culinary Arts.
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.
HOMETOWN: Coatesville, PA
PROFESSION: Executive Chef & Co-Owner, Foode
CULINARY EDUCATION: Art Institute of Atlanta
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Rustic local apple tart with burnt salted caramel and house-made vanilla bean ice
Joy Crump began her culinary career in Los Angeles where she worked as contract caterer for the president of Capitol Records and hosted large-scale functions for musicians and executives. While in Los Angeles, she also worked on private events for Warner Bros. Television and served as private chef for actors and executives on Warner’s television series and feature films. In 2005, Joy moved cross-country to Atlanta, Georgia where she enrolled at the Art Institute of Atlanta. While earning her degree, she studied under Chef Bradley Rouse, head chef for the Atlanta Hawks, and worked to develop specialized menus for NBA athletes and their families. Following graduation, Joy began an apprenticeship at Woodfire Grill under Chef Michael Tuohy – an industry pioneer credited with bringing organic farm-to-table culinary practices to the Atlanta restaurant scene. During her tenure, Joy grew her skills in meat curing, butchery, fruit preservation, sauce-making and wine-pairing. When the Woodfire Grill’s ownership was turned over to Chef Kevin Gillepsie in 2008 (“Top Chef” Season 6), Joy continued to work on his team for two years. In 2008, Joy founded FOODĒ as a home-based private event and catering company in Atlanta. In 2010, FOODĒ grew to a physical location on Caroline Street in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia.
HOMETOWN: Rosemount, MN – currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner SLC POP and Culinary Instructor at the Art Institute
CULINARY EDUCATION: Professional Culinary Diploma, NWCAV
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Zabaglione, Brown Buttered Peaches and
Portobello Mushrooms and Cocoa Nibs
Katie Weinner has been everything from a barista, to pastry cook, to banquet chef and over the last five years, culinary instructor. She took the idea of modern fine dining and transformed the student-run restaurant at the Art Institute in Salt Lake City. Two years ago she created SLC POP, a pop-up restaurant business, after being inspired by the challenge and excitement of throwing eclectic dinner parties. She then turned it brick and mortar by converting the Nata Gallery into a "private" 12-seat dining room for over a year. Luckily for Katie, she's had incredible support from her parents who always told her to do what makes her happy. She gets inspiration from traveling the globe with her Mom who is her favorite travel companion. Katie thrives on working with exotic ingredients and spinning classic ingredients into something amazing. Her style of cooking is like her life, out-of-the-ordinary and full of surprises. When she's not in a kitchen you can find her on the river fly-fishing or “shredding the pow” up at Snowbird.
KERIANN VON RAESFELD
HOMETOWN: Resides in San Jose, California
PROFESSION: Executive Chef/Owner at Exposed Gastronomy
CULINARY EDUCATION: Professional Culinary Institute
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Apple Beignets with Salted Bourbon Caramel and Spiced Pecan Ice Cream
Keriann’s passion for cooking started at a very young age and she knew early on she was meant to be in the kitchen. No stranger to culinary competition, Keriann has broken barriers by being the first American to win several international competitions and the first woman to win a number of prestigious titles. Keriann was the first place winner of the Hans Bushkens Junior Chefs challenge at the WACS conference in Dubai in 2008, winning the title of “World’s Greatest Young Chef.” She also represented the USA in the Chaine Des Rotisseurs International Young Commis competition in Paris, France in 2008. Keriann was a proud member of Apprentice Team USA at the IKA in Germany 2008 where USA left with the gold. Her latest competition was in Scotland, where Keriann was the Team Captain of Youth Team USA. She led her team to three gold medals and first place overall. From 2008-2010, Keriann was the Executive Chef of 150 Central Park aboard Royal Caribbean’s “Oasis of the Seas,” the world’s largest cruise ship.
Keriann founded private chef company Exposed Gastronomy in 2010 where she loves to create new custom menus for each event and interacte with her guests in a more intimate setting. The self-proclaimed “Wife, Mommy, Chef” is married with two beautiful children, Bradley and Scarlett.
HOMETOWN: Dearborn, MI. Currently resides in Los Angeles, CA
PROFESSION: Sous Chef, ink. Restaurant
CULINARY EDUCATION: Culinary Arts, Schoolcraft
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Pumpkin Pie
Mei grew up working alongside her father at their family-owned-and-operated restaurant outside Detroit, where she learned the fundamentals of being a well-rounded cook and running a restaurant. Throughout the years she has had the privilege of working for some of the most revered chefs in the industry such as Michael Symon (Roast), Marcus Samuelsson (C-House) and Wolfgang Puck, whose company provided much of her early training and refinement of skills during her three-year involvement. After spending time cutting her teeth at Spago Las Vegas, she eventually moved to West Hollywood to join Michael Voltaggio's opening team at ink. in Los Angeles. She spent the last three years there moving up the ranks to eventually become a sous chef at the critically-acclaimed establishment. Most recently, she has been in the kitchen with Bryan Voltaggio at VOLT in Frederick, MD as a sous chef.
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA – currently resides in San Francisco, CA
PROFESSION: Private Chef, Kitchit
EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A., B.A. Cognitive Science, U.C. Irvine
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Cinnamon Sugar Beignets with Orange Caramel
Born and raised in Los Angeles by traditional Chinese parents, Melissa learned to work a wok by age six, acting as her mother’s little sous chef. She learned to cook by experimentation and by watching cooking shows like Julia & Jacques. While obtaining a B.A. in Cognitive Science, she satisfied her hunger for working in the kitchen by moonlighting as a line cook. Melissa went on to graduate at the top of her class from the Culinary Institute of America before relocating to San Francisco. Melissa trained under several Michelin star and James Beard-acclaimed chefs throughout the Bay Area including Dominique Crenn, Craig Stoll, and Ron Siegel. As Siegel’s Sous Chef at The Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, she adopted a true value for seasonality and discipline of classic technique. Melissa currently works as a private chef, demonstrating whole animal and farm-to-table movements throughout her food while drawing inspiration from her travels.
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn NY
PROFESSION: Private Chef
CULINARY EDUCATION: The French Culinary Institute Grand Diploma in Culinary Arts
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Black Cardamom Sponge Cake, Pumpkin Ice Cream, Sweet Potato Cheese Cake
Until 4 years ago, Michael was not a chef and hardly a cook; he was a culinary admirer and an eater. He was in a comfortable finance job but felt he was missing out on his true passion, until one day he picked up a knife and a pan and hasn’t dropped them since. Michael continued to work full time in accounting while studying at the French Culinary Institute on the side. After graduation, he became a line cook at Park Avenue Winter where he worked in a high-pressure, fast paced environment. Michael spent his off hours perfecting his skills and experimenting with modern cooking techniques, eventually leading him to begin his own catering company. He loves having the ability to be creative and to design his own menus that deliver a unique experience to clients. Michael’s goal is to bring a high-end restaurant into the kitchen of all his customers while creating flavorful and beautiful-looking dishes. One day, he hopes to establish a boutique restaurant that lets him share his love of food with others in a supper club-like atmosphere.
HOMETOWN: Chico, California (Currently Chicago, Illinois)
PROFESSION: Executive Sous Chef, Trenchermen
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S. in Both Baking and Pastry and Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Anything Pumpkin!! Fall is my favorite Season and my guilty pleasure is Pumpkin Cheesecake.
Chef Rebecca LaMalfa grew up on a farm in Chico, California with her life revolving around food. Her father was a second-generation farmer while her mother made canning apple butter and peach preserves a yearly family affair. As a result, LaMalfa inherently gravitated towards cooking, and her early experiences with food continue to shape the way she cooks today: taking seasonal ingredients and treating them in the most thoughtful way possible. LaMalfa attended the Culinary Institute of America where she earned a dual degree in culinary and pastry in 2006. After graduation, she moved to Las Vegas and was hired to work at Craft Steak. Following a stint at The Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, she returned to Las Vegas in 2008 to work at Michelin starred restaurant Daniel Boulud Brasserie before moving on to another Michelin starred restaurant, Michael Mina, where she worked under celebrated chef Marc St Jacques. In 2011, LaMalfa accepted a sous chef position under James Beard nominee Gregory Pugin at Michelin starred restaurant Le Cirque in Las Vegas. She moved to Chicago the following year and assisted in opening Trenchermen (Bon Appétit ‘Top 50 Best New Restaurants’ 2013). She currently serves as the executive sous chef where she draws from all of her experiences, from the farm-to-table ethics she grew up with to the technique she has honed over the years, to help realize the restaurant’s unique vision. Rebecca is married to Thomas Lents, the executive chef of restaurant Sixteen. They have three fuzzy children: a boxer name Chloe, a dachshund named Horton and a cat named Giggs.
HOMETOWN: Long Island, NY – currently resides in Atlanta, Ga.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef/Owner of Rosebud, The Family Dog, Timone’s and Diner
CULINARY EDUCATION: School of Hard-Knocks & BA Literature from The Citadel, Charleston, SC
Ron Eyester has made a name for himself as an innovative chef who is constantly seeking out superior quality ingredients and presenting those ingredients in a creative, yet approachable manner. You may have also encountered his alter ego on Twitter as TheAngryChef, Ron's entertaining and humorous perspective on restaurant etiquette. Ron’s restaurants and his commitment to serving the local community with his restaurants have rejuvenated the Morningside neighborhood. Ron’s larger-than-life personality has enabled him to establish sustainable relationships with his vendors, guests and staff. Ron has recently expanded his empire to Atlanta’s urban Atlantic Station with his twist on a classic diner. Opening in September 2014, Diner is inspired by his childhood years spent in New York, where he has many fond memories of eating at neighborhood diners. Ron’s restaurant journey has been a bit unconventional to say the least, but the many twists and turns have certainly had a dynamic influence on his cooking style and his outlook on food in general. Although Ron deems working in his restaurants as more of a lifestyle rather than an actual job, when Ron is not in his restaurants, which is rare, he enjoys spending time with his two children, Mydland and Cassidy. Stay tuned for where the Angry Chef will be next.
HOMETOWN: Mexico City, Mexico. Currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
PROFESSION: Chef/ Owner, Mexikosher Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA www.mexikosher.com
CULINARY EDUCATION: Le Cordon Bleu
FAVORITE RECIPES: Reworking complex, traditional recipes into Kosher cooking. For non-kosher dining, whole pig roasts for gatherings of family and friends.
Born and raised in the heart of Mexico, the son of a Japanese father and a Mexican mother, Katsuji has worked inside LA’s most acclaimed kitchens, from the four-star Bastide Restaurant to Beverly Hills’ Mastro’s Steakhouse. Tanabe recently celebrated the first anniversary of his own MexiKosher Restaurant, the first authentic Kosher Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles and arguably the first of its kind in the entire United States. Katsuji is proud to serve his community as a personal mentor and celebrity representative for Jewish Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Los Angeles, where he happily offers his time and expertise for fundraising and volunteer drives for the group, as well as regularly working alongside the children that the group supports, teaching healthy eating and cooking alternatives.