Kristen Kish (Season 10 winner)
SK: Where/what were you working on when you got cast on the show?
Kristen Kish: I was the sous chef at Barbara Lynch’s Stir.
SK: What are you doing now?
KK: Traveling to great places, cooking, filmed a season of 36 Hours as a host on Travel Channel. Finding great causes to support. Working on my first book due out fall of 2017. One day I may commit to a city and settle down and do the restaurant thing — when I’m ready and however and whatever the definition of a restaurant means to me and how I want to cook for people. Many lessons to be learned that are probably long overdue for me and I’m finding them through all channels of exploration and keeping all my doors open.
SK: How did being on the show affect your career?
KK: With more exposure comes more recognition. It cast a very wide net for me. And fortunately in a great way. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have gotten a lot of things had no one seen me on Top Chef, win or not. I love that I have been able to cook side by side with so many of my idols.
SK: What’s your favorite memory from Top Chef?
KK: That’s difficult… so many. But, truly, meeting so many great chefs across the country. So many friends made. There are only so many people that know exactly what it felt like. We experienced something that is hard to put into words. It’s nice to know that there are people that know that feeling.
SK: What was the greatest thing you have learned from Top Chef? Or what was your biggest takeaway?
KK: That I was capable of doing something I never would have imaged. I was able to push myself in a way that can’t be duplicated. And from that, I walked away having learned so much about who I am as a chef and just as a person.
SK: Would you do it all again?
KK: Ummmm… maybe not. [Laughs] Grateful for the opportunity. Now it’s about keeping up with everything that has since happened.
SK: What’s your favorite Top Chef alum restaurant?
KK: I’ve been to a handful of them… hard to say. I’ll let you know after I have a chance to visit them. I will say Nina Compton’s restaurant in New Orleans is fantastic, Sheldon [Simeon]’s in Maui was perfection. Love Brooke [Williamson]’s spots. I’m just going to end up naming all the ones I’ve been to. So let’s just say all of them are so different and amazing in their own ways.
SK: What other Top Chef alums have you crossed paths with since the show?
KK: Too many to count.
SK: Do you have any advice for chefs considering whether or not to compete on Top Chef?
KK: Go on for the right reason. TV is great and can open up doors, but if you aren’t there to cook because you love it, don’t go. Don’t go on TV just to be “famous.” It’s annoying to our profession and what we all love to do. You want to compete against like-minded people.
SK: What advice do you give incoming chefs competing on Top Chef?
KK: Get out of your head. There isn’t enough time to live there, it happens so fast. Just fucking cook the best you know how. Ignore the cameras, and regardless of the outcome. Winning doesn’t make you the best chef, so drop the ego. And not winning doesn’t mean you aren’t good, so stay confident after it’s all said and done.
SK: This season features Brooke from your season. What message would you like to give her?
KK: I adore Brooke.. a huge fan of her in general. We became friends on our season together and have stayed in touch ever since. She is an amazing chef and competitor. She knows what she’s doing and she does it so well — this obviously isn’t her first go around. I’m definitely rooting for her as a friend! I hope she wins… No pressure though. 😉
Next up: Mei Lin, Season 12 winner