In its 15 seasons — with a 16th coming right up! — Bravo's Top Chef has collected a roster of amazingly talented affiliates, including all judges and cheftestants past and present. And of course these individuals are driven by personal ambition, latent ability, and tireless hard work — but they also remember where they came from, and the people who got them where they are.
Specifically, with Mother's Day around the corner, we culled our interviews with Top Chef's roster of talent for tributes to their mothers, and comments on how their moms influenced their careers. Here's what the chefs had to say about their mothers' (and grandmothers'!) teachings and cherished memories of shared quality time.
1. Joe Sasto: Season 15 Top 5
"My mother was my inspiration for cooking and life. She made me the man I am today... My mom would always say, 'Don’t sweat the small stuff.' And I think you can apply that to everything outside of the kitchen, but especially in the kitchen — who cares if your knife cuts aren’t perfect? It’s OK if something gets a little messed up around the edges. Whether it be making pasta or pancakes, those small little mistakes — there’s perfection in imperfection."
2. Adrienne Cheatham: Season 15 Runner Up
"My mother is my biggest food influence. She worked in the FOH as a waiter, then restaurant manager, and eventually in food sales when I was growing up and every day after school I was in a restaurant doing homework and sometimes helping out. She showed me the work ethic and attitude required to be successful in the hospitality industry."
3. Michael Voltaggio: Season 6 Winner
"[A recipe from childhood that I still make today is] these sausage balls that my mom would only make on holidays. They combine Jimmy Dean tube sausage, store-bought shredded cheddar cheese, and Bisquick pancake mix. And you mix it all together in these little meatballs and bake them. Growing up as a kid until I was probably 15 or 16 years old, it was the biggest secret of our household. It was so special occasion that I thought my mom would slave for days over these things. And then when I found out what they actually were, I realized that it takes about nine minutes to put it all together and throw it in the oven, so it's probably one of the best things I've ever had, still to this day."
4. Fatima Ali: Season 15 Fan Favorite
[My biggest influences are] my brother and my mother — both have pushed me to open up my boundaries in terms of whom I want to cook for and focus on my craft."
5. Joe Flamm: Season 15 Winner
"[My biggest food influence] was my grandmother, Mary — I grew up cooking with her and my mother."
6. Gail Simmons: Judge
"My mom was an amazing cook who insisted we taste everything around us whether we were at our local market, on vacation in a foreign country or at a neighbor’s house with a different ethnic background than ours. There’s no question I inherited my sense of curiosity and adventure surrounding food from her. She taught me that there is nothing to fear about tasting something new and different, and that in fact, it will often surprise, delight, and broaden your perspective on the world."
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