For 14 seasons, Top Chef has been more than a flash in the pan. It has emerged as a leader of the pack on bolstering the careers of the nation's best chefs. Chef Isaac Toups didn't cinch the title of Top Chef during season 13, but he was a finalist and even caught the viewers' eyes with fans voting Isaac fan favorite earning him a sweet bonus of $10,000.
But Isaac's days taking on new culinary challenges aren't over yet. Isaac is back and he's packing his knives and setting sail around the Caribbean to take on some of the biggest challenges of his culinary career. See what happens when Isaac boards a cruise ship and goes head-to-head in a series of challenges against the ship's talented chefs. Isaac also stops at tropical locations along the way where he faces-off against local chefs to beat them at their own game by re-creating classic, local dishes (like Mofongo!). Watch Bravotv.com's new original digital series, Isaac Takes On...now!
And here are a few things you might not have known about this fan favorite...
1. Dad Didn't Raise No Picky Eaters
Isaac shared with The Coarse Grind Podcast that the sole reason he isn't a picky eater and will seek out authentic cooking comes from some childhood trauma! At a buffet from his youth, he refused to try the 20 or so dishes laid out. His father grabbed him by the ear and made him taste everything. His family background is also an inspiration. The Toups family has been in the Louisiana region for 300 years. That's a lot of gumbo!
2. He Rubbed Shoulders with Emeril
That's right, THE Emeril Lagasse -BAM! Before Top Chef fame, Isaac cooked for this well-known chef in his New Orleans haunt. Isaac started out as a fry cook and worked his way up to executive sous chef of the establishment. There for ten years, he told The Coarse Grind Podcast that Emeril was "a great guy" and "he really takes care of you."
3. Behind Every Man
Well at least behind Isaac, there's Amanda, his wife. Isaac credits her with the inspiration to go to New Orleans and become a better cook. They opened Toups' Meatery together in 2012 to showcase a new kind of cajun-inspired faire. Heavy on the meat, especially the parts people might not be accustomed to (think lamb's neck), Isaac says of his restaurant on its website, "All I have ever wanted to do is to offer my version of Cajun cuisine and to recreate the dining experience around my family’s table."
4. Worth the Gamble
Opening the restaurant in a non-dining destination paid off and Toups' Meatery grew to be a successful endeavor. So much so that they recently opened a second location called Toups South. The efforts haven't gone unnoticed and Isaac has been nominated twice as a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South. In the cooking world, that's like almost winning an Oscar.
5. He Once Worked at Whole Foods
The cheftestant once cut up filets in another life at Whole Foods. He told The Times-Picayune, that it was during a time when he wasn't sure if he should continue cooking. He shared the toughest part about the gig was not slapping someone in the face with a fish.