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The three female winners of Top Chef have some words for the new contestants

Mei Lin (Season 12 winner)

Mei Lin
Image: Bravo, Mei Lin/Instagram

SK: Where/what were you working on when you got cast on the show?

Mei Lin: I was working at Ink in West Hollywood. I was a sous chef for Michael Voltaggio.

SK: What are you doing now?

ML: Traveling, cooking, pop-ups, demos, private chef events and am currently working on getting a restaurant open in the LA market.

SK: How did being on the show affect your career?

ML: Being on Top Chef allowed me to reach a national audience. My new following and support are allowing me the freedom to develop a business based on my vision of food and service. It also gave me the opportunity to travel and develop a network of resources I couldn’t have developed so quickly without it.

SK: What’s your favorite memory from Top Chef?

ML: Winning! [Laughs] But seriously, there are so many great memories. I would say meeting all the chefs and traveling with my new friends.

SK: What was the greatest thing you have learned from Top Chef? Or what was your biggest takeaway?

ML: Every plate matters. Cool with discipline and don’t let anything slip through the cracks.

SK: Would you do it all again?

ML: Of course!

SK: What’s your favorite Top Chef alum restaurant?

ML: Uh, so many!!! [Mike Isabella’s] Kapnos, [James Rigato’s] Mabel Gray, [Leah Cohen’s] Pig & Khao, [Kenny Gilbert’s] Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, [Bryan Voltaggio’s] Volt, [Michael Voltaggio’s] Ink. Just to name a few… all so good!

SK: What other Top Chef alums have you crossed paths with since the show?

ML: There are actually a lot of TC Alum in the Southern California area. Recently, [I] did a dinner with Brooke [Williamson] (S10), Nyesha [Arrington] (S9) and Shirley [Chung] (S11). It’s fun to get together to do what we all love: cook.

SK: Do you have any advice for chefs considering whether or not to compete on Top Chef?

ML: Well, if you can get on, go for it.

SK: What advice do you give incoming chefs competing on Top Chef?

ML: There’s no road map for the show, but I would say put your head down, cook your heart out and stand by your work.

More: Top Chef‘s best and worst reactions to cheftestant dishes

Top Chef premieres Thursday, Dec. 1 at 10/9c on Bravo.

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