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Everything You Need to Know About Top Chef Season 14's Chefs

Get to know about this season's rookies and returning chefs...

Introducing Top Chef Season 14's Rookie Chefs
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Fire up the grill, because Top Chef is back for Season 14! This season, vetern Top Chef contestants are going head to head with some newcomers, and let's just say that if you can't take the heat, you should definitely get out of the kitchen. Want to know more about who's new and who's back for more? Check out this season's contestants below.


Annie Pettry

Current Residency: Louisville, KY
Occupation: Executive Chef/Owner, Decca

Chef Annie Pettry is a nationally recognized executive chef and owner of Decca in Louisville, KY. After training at the International Culinary Center in New York, she cooked alongside renowned chefs in New York City, Asheville and San Francisco, before moving to Louisville to open Decca in 2012. At her restaurant, Pettry applies classic French technique to Southern and Midwestern ingredients, with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking. She was named Restaurant Hospitality's "15 To Watch in 2015," FOOD & WINE magazine's "The People's Best New Chef" nominee for the southeast in 2015 and Starchefs' Rising Star in 2014.

BJ Smith

Current Residency: Portland, OR
Occupation: Executive Chef/Owner, Smokehouse 21

Chef B.J. Smith is the Owner and Executive Chef of Smokehouse 21, Smokehouse Tavern, and Kim Jong Smokehouse at Pine Street Market in Portland, Oregon as well as the newest location, Smokehouse Provisions, in Vancouver, Washington. Smith brings more than two decades of culinary experience to his role, applying both classic and modern cooking techniques to high quality ingredients provided by local farmers including Cattail Creek Farm, Prairie Creek Farms and Your Kitchen Garden. Growing up in a restaurant family, Smith recalls spending most of his childhood at his parent's Coney Island restaurant in South Bend, Indiana where his first role in food was as a junior prep cook. His love for cooking brought him to the former Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. Post-graduation life led him to the kitchens of nationally acclaimed restaurants: Le Bernardin and Gotham Bar & Grill in New York City, Citrus in Los Angeles and Paley's Place, Veritable Quandary and Olea Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. In his spare time, Chef Smith likes to DJ and loves making music as much as he does food.



Emily Hahn

Current Residency: Charleston, SC
Occupation: Chef at Warehouse Bar + Kitchen

Emily Hahn, Chef at Warehouse Bar + Kitchen has been cooking in the South for eleven years. Her culinary career began at Mamma Zu in Richmond, Virginia, working directly with Ed Vasaio. After three years at the helm of Mamma Zu's kitchen, Hahn moved to Vermont to attend New England Culinary Institute. Upon graduating, she made her way to Charleston to work under James Beard Award winner, Mike Lata, at FIG Restaurant. Hahn's passion for foods of different cultures and travel soon led her to Patagonia, Chile, to work at one of the top-rated fly fishing lodges in the world, Martin Pescador Lodge. After returning from Chile, Hahn took a part-time position at Warehouse and eventually took the lead in the kitchen as the Executive Chef, all while growing her empanada business, Empanada Mamma. Her cuisine is bright, flavorful, and elevates simple ingredients in inventive ways. In 2015, Hahn was named one of Charleston's "Rising Star Chefs" by FOOD & WINE Magazine and Eater Charleston's "Chef of the Year."

Gerald Sombright

Current Residency: Marco Island, FL
Occupation: Chef de Cuisine at Ario

Leading the culinary team at the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort's signature restaurant, Ario, Chef de Cuisine, Gerald Sombright brings his 15 years of experience, culinary pedigree and detail for precision in fine dining restaurants to the kitchen. Sombright originally hails from St. Louis, MO., where he cut his teeth at Cielo restaurant and Annie Gunn's under the tutelage of James Beard Award-winning Chef, Lou Rook. Most recently, Sombright was the restaurant chef for PB&G at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando under the direction of Award-winning Chef Fabrizio Schenardi. Prior, he headed up the prestigious Wit & Wisdom restaurant at the Four Seasons Baltimore Waterfront led by Celebrity Chef Michael Mina. At his current restaurant Ario, Chef Sombright is inspired by his beautiful surroundings and the variety of so many natural resources and ingredients at his disposal. Each night, he takes guests on a culinary journey through his dishes and creates new and lasting experiences for them through his innovative menu.

Jamie Lynch

Current Residency: Charlotte, NC
Occupation: Executive Chef/Partner, 5Church Group

Chef Jamie Lynch is a New York native and attended the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont where he was awarded a degree in Culinary Arts. Upon graduation, Lynch was offered a position by New York Times' four-star Le Cirque 2000 Restaurant in The Palace Hotel. He went on to gain experience at culinary heavyweights Aureole, Café Boulud and Tocqueville before moving to Charlotte in 2002 to pursue his dream and open 5Church. Lynch has garnered many accolades such as being voted Best Chef in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Charlotte Magazine's "Best of the Best" Awards. He currently serves as the Executive Chef and Partner at 5Church Group, overseeing all three restaurant locations in Charlotte, N.C., Charleston, S.C., and Atlanta, G.A

Jim Smith

Current Residency: Montgomery, AL
Occupation: Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission

Jim Smith is the Executive Chef of the State of Alabama and Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. As the state chef, he has placed an emphasis on using the best local ingredients and has made strides to encourage the support of local farmers and Alabama fishers. He uses his position as ambassador of food to promote farmers' markets and events that support Alabama food products. Smith is not only responsible for the daily preparation of food for the First Family, but he is also responsible for planning and preparing menus for events sponsored by the State. In 2011, he was crowned the King of American Seafood by winning The Great American Seafood-Cook-Off and became the national spokesperson for Alabama Seafood, American Sustainable Seafood, Gulf Seafood and the NOAA. As the winner, he traveled the country educating Americans about the benefits of sustainable seafood. As Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, Chef Smith is proud to be a part of the great work being done to promote Alabama Seafood.  

Silvia Barban

Current Residency: Brooklyn, NY
Chef/Owner, Aita Restaurant and LaRina Pastificio e Vino

Silvia Barban was born and raised in Northern Italy where she learned to combine its cuisine rich in butter, cheese and olive oil with the fresh tastes of her mother's southern Calabrian heritage. From "E.Maggia" Stresa culinary school, Barban began to find her way in the kitchen of the Maestro of Italian cuisine, Gualtiero Marchesi. She worked as a pastry chef, learning to cook modern and traditional dessert for Giancarlo Perbellini, and later moving into the kitchen as chef de partie. In 2012, she made the move to New York for the opening of Giovanni Rana Pastificio e Cucina. She was originally meant to be a part of a three month consulting team, but stayed on as sous chef, relishing the opportunity to work in Manhattan. After two years, Barban received an offer to become executive chef at Aita in Brooklyn, and has directed the restaurant using fresh local produce to create traditional and modern Italian dishes from her native Italian heart. She is also the Executive Chef and co-owner of LaRina Pastificio & Vino, working with Giulia Pelliccioni and Roberto Aita.


Sylva Senat

Current Residency: Philadelphia, PA
Occupation: Executive Chef, Maison208 (opening Winter 2016/17)

A French-speaking Haitian native with Manhattan fine-dining sensibilities, Senat is a kitchen-trained chef who learned from some of the absolute best. His culinary journey has taken him from The Sign of The Dove to Aquavit NY to then Jean Georges' restaurant at Trump Hotel where he eventually became Jean-Georges' sous chef. He moved on to become co-chef de cuisine at 66 Leonard Street and Mercer Kitchen. He has also worked overseas in France and San Juan, and upon his return home, he was immediately snatched up by Buddakan in Philadelphia. After two years there, Sylva moved on to become the Executive Chef of Tashan Restaurant and Lounge, a new modern Indian restaurant. Senat was a cornerstone of the success at Tashan and is currently consulting with other restaurants in Philadelphia, while also preparing to open a new restaurant, Maison208, in Center City this winter. He also mentors young students from a program called Career through Culinary Arts, where he also holds a seat on the alumni board.

The New Chefs Meet the Returning Chefs for the First Time
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Amanda Baumgarten

Previous Season: Season 7 - Washington, D.C.
Current Residency: Chicago, IL
Occupation/Profession: Bartender/The Victor Bar

A Los Angeles native, Amanda Baumgarten attended Le Cordon Bleu in London and went on to work at four different Michelin-starred restaurants including La Tante Claire and Le Gavroche in London and Melisse and Patina in LA. From there, she went on to become Executive Sous Chef of Paperfish before joining Ford's Filling Station as Executive Sous Chef. After competing on season seven of Top Chef in Washington, D.C., she became Executive Chef of Los Angeles's Water Grill. Having helmed one of the city's most acclaimed seafood restaurants, she was recruited to open Herringbone in La Jolla. From there she went on to open her own concept Waypoint Public in San Diego's North Park neighborhood. Currently, Baumgarten is living in Chicago and honing her cocktail skills.

Brooke Williamson

Previous Season: Season 10 - Seattle
Current Residency: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, Hudson House, The Tripel, Playa Provisions and Da Kikokiko

Los Angeles native Brooke Williamson has carved out an impressive resume full of leading roles and professional achievement, such as being the youngest female chef to ever cook at the James Beard House and a runner-up on Top Chef season 10 in Seattle. As the co-owner and co-chef, along with husband Nick Roberts, of successful ventures including Hudson House in Redondo Beach, and The Tripel, Playa Provisions, and the culinary retail boutique Tripli-Kit in Playa Del Rey, the culinary duo strives to bring a bit of LA's gourmet beachside vibe to the South Bay of Los Angeles. In October 2016, the wife and husband team debuted their fifth concept, a fast-casual Hawaiian restaurant called Da Kikokiko in Playa Vista, featuring three of Hawaii's most popular street foods: shave ice, poke, and musubi. Before the success of her hospitality empire, Williamson's career began as a teacher's assistant at the Epicurean Institute of Los Angeles, followed by a pastry assistant at Fenix, under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Ken Frank. She later worked as the youngest sous chef at the nationally acclaimed restaurant Michael's of Santa Monica, before staging at the renowned Daniel restaurant by Chef and Owner Daniel Boulud in New York City. Two years later, Williamson was appointed her first Executive Chef position at the notable Los Angeles restaurant Boxer, which led her to opening the Brentwood eatery Zax as executive chef, where she began to develop her signature California-inspired cuisine—infused with local ingredients and global flavors. In addition to her experience competing on Top Chef, Williamson has no fear on camera and has also participated on other national TV shows including Top Chef Duels, winning a battle on Esquire Network's Knife Fight, and hosting MTV's first foodie series, House of Food.

Casey Thompson

Top Chef Season 3: Miami & Top Chef Season 8: All-Stars 

Current Residency: Napa Valley, CA
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef, Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Texas native Casey Thompson made her professional start under celebrity chef Dean Fearing at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, one of Texas' most historical fine dining restaurants. From there, she opened and became the Executive Chef at one of Dallas' most popular Asian restaurants, Shinsei. After finishing as a finalist and earning the "Fan Favorite" title on Top Chef season three in Miami, Thompson settled in San Francisco and traveled the world, learning techniques from places as far as Thailand and Argentina. She became the American Ambassador for an Argentinian Malbec, a brand of Moet-Hennessey, and cooked her way through the Napa Valley learning the art of pairing farmed foods with wines. Thompson split her time between the West Coast and Texas and opened Brownstone Restaurant in Fort Worth to critical acclaim. Shortly after, she returned to Top Chef to compete on season eight in New York City against an All-Star cast. In the spring of 2014, she opened Aveline restaurant and The European bar in the heart of San Francisco. She currently works as the Executive Chef for the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area and continues her private dining business in the Napa Valley.

John Tesar

Top Chef Season 10: Seattle. 
Current Residency: Dallas, TX  
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Partner/Restaurateur, Knife at The Highland Dallas

Three-time James Beard "Best Southwest Chef" semifinalist and Top Chef season 10 contestant John Tesar is known for his stylish, modern American cuisine prepared with classic European techniques, innovative culinary perspective and no-nonsense personality. Throughout his 20+ years in the restaurant industry, which started in La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, he has received national nods from Esquire (named for Best New Restaurants for two consecutive years), FOOD & WINE and The New York Times, has made appearances on The Today Show and The Early Showand won the inaugural season of Food Network's Extreme Chef.  Chef Tesar worked in Westhampton, New York and Las Vegas before putting down roots in Dallas in 2007 where he has consulted for the menus at DRG Concepts' Dallas Chop House and most recently Oak in the Design District, to name a few. Knife at The Highland Dallas is Tesar's vision of what a contemporary steakhouse should be. Opened in 2014, the chef-driven restaurant has continued to be recognized for reinventing the steakhouse experience. Most recently Knife's pimento cheeseburger was featured as Best Burger in Dallas on The 50 Greatest Burgers list for Texas Magazine and Best Steakhouse by D Magazine's "Best of Big D's" list. Always looking ahead for the next project, Tesar announced he is working with Flatiron Books and Macmillan on a book,Knife: Modern Steak and All American Meats, that will be published in spring 2017.

Katsuji Tanabe

Season 12: Boston

Current Residency: Los Angeles

Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, Mexikosher Restaurant

Born and raised in the heart of Mexico, the son of a Japanese father and a Mexican mother, Katsuji Tanabe has worked inside LA's most acclaimed kitchens, from the four-star Bastide Restaurant to Beverly Hills' Mastro's Steakhouse. Tanabe owns MexiKosher Restaurant, the first authentic Kosher Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles and arguably the first of its kind in the entire United States. He recently expanded Mexikosher to the Upper West Side of New York City and soon plans to open Baranda in Los Angeles, a more upscale dining experience, named after his daughters Barbara and Miranda. Tanabe 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. After competing on Top Chef season 12 in Boston and Top Chef Mexico, Tanabe admits he's addicted to the rush of the competition and is eager to prove he has what it takes to bring home the title.

Sam Talbot

Season 2: Los Angeles 
Current Residency: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, Pretty Southern (Opening November 2016)

Diagnosed at a young age with Type 1 Diabetes, Chef Sam Talbot lives every hour with a deep understanding of the impact of food on life and life on food. Talbot was a semi-finalist on season two of Top Chef in Los Angeles where he was voted "Fan Favorite."  He is the founding Executive Chef of The Surf Lodge in Montauk, NY and during his time there it became a nationally acclaimed culinary destination. He went on to work with Morgans Hotel Group, opening Imperial No. Nine, a chic sustainable seafood restaurant at the Mondrian SoHo, all while championing his philanthropic causes and publishing his first book, The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries. This past year, Sam launched BEYOND TYPE 1, a non-profit organization focusing on inspiring the Diabetic community, with partners Nick Jonas, Sarah Lucas and Juliet De Baubigny. This fall, he plans to open Pretty Southern, in Brooklyn, a new culinary destination, focusing on clean fried chicken, healthy and elevated southern comfort food. 

Sheldon Simeon

Season 10: Seattle
Current Residency: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef/Owner, Tin Roof

Born in Hilo, Chef Sheldon Simeon acquired his love for cooking from his parents. His path led from Hilo High to the Culinary Institute of the Pacific onto an internship at Walt Disney World. Upon returning to Hawaii, Simeon attended Maui Culinary Academy. He competed on season 10 of Top Chef in Seattle where he finished as a finalist and won the coveted "Fan Favorite" title. After serving as the executive chef at Maui's Mala Wailea and MiGRANT, he was named in Hawaii Magazine's Top 5 Best Hawaiian Chefs of 2014 and voted FOOD & WINE Magazine's 2014 People's Best New Chef for the Pacific & Northwest. Earlier this year, Simeon opened Tin Roof, a mom and pop eatery in Kahului.

Shirley Chung

Season 11: New Orleans
Current Residency: Orange County
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Partner, Twenty Eight

Born and raised in Beijing China, Shirley Chung was exposed to international cuisine at an early age by her grandmother, Liang Si Yi, former Director of The Red Cross in China. She immigrated to America at age 17 for college and worked in Silicon Valley for a few years after graduating. Chung decided to follow her passion for food so she left her career in high tech behind and enrolled in culinary school. She is trained in classic French and Italian cuisine, worked and opened restaurants for Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Mario Batali. After she opened CarneVino as Chef de Cuisine for the Batali group, CarneVino earned multiple awards for Best Steak House internationally. Prior to being a finalist on season 11 of Top Chef in New Orleans, she held the Executive Chef Position at China Poblano, by Jose Andres, which was nominated for the Best New Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation in 2011. While working at China Poblano, she fell in love with Mexican cuisine and learned more about her own heritage. In 2014, Chung opened Orange County restaurant Twenty Eight, which she describes as modern American cuisine with a Chinese soul. 




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