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Top Chef Finalist Marks a Year Since the Journey Began: It Was "Rocky" and "Frantic"

Bravo's Top Chef Season 16 finalist Sara Bradley remembers leaving for Louisville as one of "the biggest days" of her life.

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By now we know that Bravo's Top Chef crowned Kelsey Barnard Clark as its Season 16 winner; she was joined in the final three by talented fellow cheftestants Eric Adjepong and Sara Bradley. So clearly Chef Sara's performance — viewed after the dust settled — was impressive (and her matzoh ball soup recipe is legendary). But now — inked in history as among the Top Chef elite, and pregnant with her first child — she didn't always know how everything would turn out.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the day she hit the road for Louisville in a Top Chef car, Chef Sara recalled the intense emotional roller coaster of the moment — which was riddled with nerves.

"This is one of a handful of anniversaries I will never forget," she wrote on Instagram. On this day last year, I hit the road to begin my Top Chef journey. And it started off pretty rocky."

Things seemed to go south right off the bat, in her assessment. "I intended to spend this time memorizing some recipes I wasn't 100 percent on, except I forgot my recipe book, and I was too far gone to turn back."

That made for a pretty long and nervous drive. "That nearly three and a half hour drive to Louisville, before I had to surrender my phone, was spent frantically texting my mom recipes to look up, screen shot, then send to me so I could do my best to cram," she remembered. "At that moment, I can’t exactly say I felt super confident about how far I could go, but I was still up to the challenge."

Needless to say, it turned out rather well for her. "I like to think it turned out OK," she recalled. "Happy anniversary to one of the biggest days of my life! Right behind that finale episode, that is."

For his part, Season 15 winner Joe Flamm also vividly remembers the fear and confusion of those first moments on the Top Chef journey — comparing it to a beginning a prison term.

"I pack a bag, I say goodbye to my people… And you get there and it’s super weird," he said. "They take you to this house. They’re like, 'Don’t ask any questions.' You get there day one, they come in your room, it’s like your first night in prison. They're like, 'Empty your pockets, open your mouth, what have you got, give me your wallet, watch, wedding ring, keys...'"

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