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The Daily Dish Top Chef

Kelsey Barnard Clark Opens Up About Her "Unbelievable" Career Accomplishment: "I’m So Honored"

The Bravo's Top Chef Season 16 winner had given up on a career dream— but now, it's coming true. 

By Jenny Berg

Kelsey Barnard Clark took a risk—and it paid off. After leaving fine dining to pursue her own path as a chef and business owner in Dothan, Alabama, the Bravo's Top Chef winner is being recognized as a national leader in her field. 

How to Watch

Watch the Top Chef Season 21 premiere on Wednesday, March 20 at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

In a recent Instagram post, the KBC chef and owner opened up about her recent James Beard Award nomination. In her candid share, Kelsey made it clear that she's feeling pretty "unbelievable," and also spoke to the tough choices she's made along the way. 

Kelsey Barnard Clark reacts to her James Beard Award nomination

"There are hardly times where words leave me & tears flow. Winning Top Chef was number one. Being nominated for a James Beard Award is now two," Kelsey wrote in her January 24 Instagram post. "This is a tough career y’all—it’s hard on the body and even harder on the brain."

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Kelsey's post continued: "When I decided to leave fine dining and pave my own way in my small Alabama town I pretty much gave up on any dreams of winning this prestigious award. Becoming my definition of a Chef became significantly less important to me than being a leader, a businesswomen, and a change maker in this field. I put my team before the dreams and second-guessed it, a lot. Now I know that that’s what being a great Chef is all about."

Top Chef Winner Kelsey Barnard Clark


Kelsey ended her post by writing: "Thank you [James Beard Foundation], my clients, fans, diners, town, state, teams, families and friends. Making all of you proud has always been the real deal. Fellow nominees: I’m so honored to be on this list of true superstars—thank y’all for setting the bar so damn high that this truly feels unbelievable."

Kelsey's restaurant journey has been filled with challenges that she continues to overcome. In 2020, she opened up to The Daily Dish about the struggle of keeping KBC running amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "Owning a small business is extremely, terribly difficult on the best day," she said at the time. However, because, she is "an entrepreneur at heart and a hustler," she quickly shifted to offering virtual cooking classes and takeout until the restaurant could safely re-open its doors. 

Kelsey Barnard Clark's charcuterie board recipe 

Though Kelsey is known for Southern French cuisine, which melds her family recipes with French cooking techniques, she's also an expert on putting together a Bravolebrity favorite: a showstopping charcuterie spread

To caption a 2019 photo of gorgeous platters piled high with nuts, fruits, cheeses, and more, Kelsey wrote, "There’s nothing in the world to me that is better than a good charcuterie board." She added, " I had a friend ask what the secret was to a good spread and I thought I’d share my little rule of thumb I go by." 

Ready to take notes? Here's Kelsey's master class in the art of charcuterie arranging: 

• 1 hard, soft and semi-hard cheese
• 2 spreads/ condiments (honey, jam)
• 3 fruits & dried meats
• 4 [crunchy items] (pickles, wasabi peas, nuts, olives)
• 5 dippers (crackers, pita, bread, veg crudité)"

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