Top Chef is one of the most suspenseful and slickly produced reality shows on television. While I’m still upset that the annoying Hung won the title last season, it’s time to move on now that Bravo has unveiled the 16 chefs who will be competing in season 4. The new season, which kicks off on Wednesday, March 12 at 10pm, will find the contestants competing in the windy city of Chicago. Today, Bravo gave us our first glimpse at the talented men and women who will be competing for the coveted culinary title. Read on to learn more about this season’s potential top chefs.
Andrew is a 30-year-old sous chef from New York City who has studied everything from the French cuisine of Raymond Blanc to the molecular gastronomy of Ferran Adria. With his strong skills in a variety of different types of cuisine, he could easily become a tough challenger.
31-year-old Antonia hails from Los Angeles, and is currently the executive chef at a popular restaurant called Foxtail. She’s a single mother living with her 7-year-old daughter with a background in Italian cuisine. Root beer floats with her daughter are her favorite indulgence.
Ryan is a 28-year-old chef from San Francisco, who knew what he wanted to do with his life when, at the age of nine, the “toys” at the top of his Christmas list included kitchen utensils, a wok, and food dehydrator. He currently works at Myth Cafe, where his talent for creating simple, healthy and delicious Mediterranean and French-influenced cuisine draws long lines and wide acclaim.
Competing on Top Chef will be a homecoming for 29-year-old Dale, who is originally from the windy city. He currently lives in New York and works at Buddakan, one of the hottest restaurants in the city. With his Filipino background, Dale prefers focusing on Asian flavors, and says, “I love the balance that Asian cuisine offers. The salty, sweet, bitter and sour and the textures it provides for different experiences in every bite.”
38-year-old Erik currently resides in San Francisco and works as an executive chef at Circa Restaurant. He’s a self-taught, third generation chef who gets his love of cooking from his grandfather and his mother. He says his favorite thing to cook is Circa’s popular pan-seared Chilean Sea Bass with wild chanterelle, truffles, and caramelized leek ragout.
Canadian contestant Lisa is 27-years-old and currently resides in New York City, with a dream of opening an Asian influenced restaurant. She’s worked at a variety of Asian restaurants throughout the city, and says she always exercises Asian flair in her dishes and has taught herself as much as she can about the cuisine.
Manuel worked with famed chef Mario Batali at Babbo Restaurant in New York, where he worked as a sous chef for a number of years. The 33-year-old contestant likes to think that he brings authentic Mexican fare to the heart of Midtown in New York City.
Nikki is yet another New York based chef and co-owner of the 24 Prince Restaurant. The 35-year-old is also a certified sommelier with extensive wine knowledge, and loves not being restricted to any one particular cuisine. She believes that to be a true top chef, one must experiment with flavors and ingredients from all over the world.
29-year-old Mark was born and raised on a sheep farm in New Zealand, but eventually landed in New York City. He’s now a sous chef at Public Restaurant, where he worked his way up the ladder for the past eight years after starting out as a dishwasher.
Nimma is one of the few chefs who isn’t based in New York. The 26-year-old works in Atlanta, Georgia at a restaurant called Repast. Her favorite thing to cook is pasta, and she says she always has salt, pepper, green tea, coffee, and butter on hand.
Richard also comes from Atlanta, Georgia, where he works as the chef and culinary designer for Trail-Blais. The 35-year-old is known for his innovative and personal take on classical cuisine, and believes that cooking is an art and a craft that is meant to stimulate on many levels.
New York based Spike works as the chef de cuisine at Tribeca’s new hot spot restaurant, MAi-House. The 27-year-old is currently opening a new chain called Good Stuff Eatery, which will feature all his favorite foods: hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and milkshakes.
Until recently, 31-year-old Stephanie was the chef/owner of Scylla in Chicago. She is now enjoying traveling, both domestically and abroad, while planning her next exciting venture. Stephanie considers herself a bit of a risk-taker, and is a pro at any dish involving seafood.
Born and raised in Chicago, Valerie is currently working as a personal chef in her native city. The 32-year-old has a passion for traveling and loves to incorporate influences from all over the world in her cooking.
Jennifer hails from San Francisco, where she works as the executive chef at COCO500 Restaurant. She has been trained in classic French and Mediterranean cuisine, and has also lived and worked in both Paris and London.
30-year-old Zoi is also based in San Francisco, where she works as a chef and restaurant consultant. She describes her cooking as simple and rustic, and believes her food reflects her love of Greece and Italy. Her favorite simple spring recipe is roasted baby California lamb with artichokes, spring onions, lemon and rosemary.
Returning to the show for the new season will be host Padma Lakshmi, as well as judges Ted Allen, Gail Simmons, and Tom Colicchio.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)