Background Trained at the Cincinnati Culinary Arts Academy. Worked at Grammars, Cincinnati.
How she got into cooking "My mom went back to work when I was 14, so I started helping out with preparing the family dinners."
First food memory "My mom's apple dumplings with warm milkI'd request them on my birthday."
How she ended up in New Orleans "I went down for Mardi Gras, then found a job and never looked back. It's a common New Orleans story."
Mentor John Neal at Peristyle, a 1995 F&W Best New Chef, who died soon after he won the award.
Ingredient pick Fennel. "My waiters even joke about it."
Favorite equipment A long-handled sauce whisk.
Favorite cookbook Baking with Julia Child (Morrow)."She's flawless."
What she'd do if she weren't a chef Be a professional gardener.
Favorite 1 A.M. meal Triscuits. "If you're a chef cooking 60 hours a week, you just can't keep perishable foods in your refrigerator."
Food vice French fries.
Recipe tip When chicken stuffing will go under the skin, chill the stuffing first; it will be easier to handle and won't expand in the oven.
Won Best New Chef at: Peristyle, New Orleans
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.