Top Chef Season 11 will head down to the Big Easy to find the next great master of American cuisine. The action kicks off October 2 at 10p ET/PT and finds judges Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson and New Orleans' very own Emeril Lagasse tasting all manner of dishes from our latest group of chef'testants.
So...who are this year's competitors? Meet the first six below; each of these cheftestants hails from the Northeast region of the country. Over the next two days, we'll reveal the next two batches of contestants.
Can't wait for the October 2 premiere? Bravo has also announced a new web series Padma's Picks, which finds host Padma Lakshmi seeking out on rising culinary star from the Big Easy to compete in this season.
Stephanie Cmar, 28, Boston, MA.
Always passionate about cooking, Stephanie Cmar began working in the food industry when she was 15 years old at the Muffin Shop in Marblehead, MA. In 2007, Stephanie graduated from Johnson & Wales University and returned to Boston to begin her career at Top of the Hub. She continued developing her talent by working as sous chef at Ivy Restaurant. Her next step was working with Barbara Lynch Gruppo at B&G Oysters in 2009 as line cook where she was quickly promoted to sous chef and from there, she moved over to Stir. Most recently, Stephanie has continued to further her fine dining skills at No. 9 Park. The fast-paced, creative environment continues to inspire her and drives her passion for food.
Patricia Vega, 29, New York City
Chef Patricia Vega was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to New York at the age of 21 to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a chef. After training in classic French cuisine and graduating from the French Culinary Institute in 2010, Patricia has worked in some of NYC’s most prestigious kitchens, including: Plein Sud, Nougatine at Jean Georges, and most recently, David Burke Fishtail. She loves giving a nod to her Puerto Rican heritage in her food, but she is most passionate about French and Italian cuisine.
Janine Booth, 25, New York City.
Growing up in Australia, Janine was surrounded by unique flavors from all over the world which inspired her to embark on a culinary journey throughout Europe, Asia and beyond. Janine's travels lead her to Miami, Florida, where she studied Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu and worked in restaurants alongside former Top Chef alum Chef Jeff McInnis, exploring Southern American, Thai, Vietnamese, and Modern American cuisines. Janine is currently living in New York City where she is working on her own restaurant, which is scheduled to open late 2013.
Jason Cichonski, 27, Philadelphia, PA
At the young age of 27, Chef Jason Cichonski, is the Chef and owner of Ela Restaurant in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood. Hailed by The Philadelphia Inquirer that “few kitchens in town can match Ela’s food value-wise for pure excitement… from the first course to the last, the chef at Ela is hottest where it matters most.” Ela is co-owned by Chef Chip Roman, one of the city’s acclaimed chefs who first partnered with Jason to open his Chestnut Hill restaurant Mica, another top restaurant in the region. Prior to joining Chef Roman at Mica, Jason served as executive chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse when he was only 24 years old.
Nick Elmi, 32, Philadelphia, PA
Chef Nicholas Elmi has worked at some of the top rated French restaurants on the east coast, including Guy Savoy (Paris), Le Bec Fin, Union Pacific, Oceana and Lutece. Nicholas has built a solid French repertoire that is constantly undated with influences from his travels as well as his upbringing in New England. In the fall of 2013, Nicholas plans on opening his own restaurant and business in Philadelphia, the city he has called home for 13 years.
Bene Bartolotta, 27, New York City
Benedetto Bartolotta has created Indulge by Bene, now setting the standard as the premier catering and event planning company in New York City. Bene has planned his signature company to appeal to clients who seek a unique food experience in a setting of their choice. Based in Manhattan, Indulge by Bene focuses on the highest quality fresh ingredients, innovative flavors, and artful sexy presentations. (Bene was nominated as one of the Top 10 Sexiest Chefs in New York City.)
Watch a preview of Top Chef Season 11