Born: Sewickley, Pennsylvania; 1971.
Education: Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts; Pittsburgh.
Experience: The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Atlanta; Daniel and Tabla, New York City; The French Laundry, Yountville, California; The Dining Room at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes, Florida.
What he learned at the French Laundry: Attention to the most minute detail. "In the middle of my interview with Thomas Keller, he was giving me a tour of the kitchen, and suddenly he dropped down on his knees and started wiping down a counter. And I was like, Should I start wiping it down too?"
Equipment obsession: His LEM meat grinder. "I bought it at the Bass Pro Shop."
Local hangout snack: Tapas at 2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria in Washington, DC, which serves small plates like marinated sardines and pork rillette. "I've never even had the pizza there; I order whatever is on display on the counter."
Guilty pleasure: Buffalo wings with buttery Frank's Redhot sauce.
Favorite cookbook: The French Laundry Cookbook. "I was cooking in New York City when it came out. One of the guys I worked with had the book and let me take it home for two days. I sat in my apartment and read it cover-to-cover."
Big Food & Wine moment: "When I was living in New York in 1999, I was going up the escalator at a Barnes & Noble. A display of the Food & Wine Best New Chefs issue came into view, and I saw Dale Reitzer, whom I'd worked with in Atlanta, on the cover. It was like a scene from a movie. I was happy for him, but jealous, too."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.