Why He's Amazing: Because as the seasons change, the dishes he creates with each day's produce are rarely what you'd expect. For example, springtime: sweetbreads with bucatini and rhubarb agrodolce.
Culinary School: Coursework at the Art Institutes International Minnesota (Minneapolis)
Background: Avec (Chicago), Ciola's (Austin)
Quintessential Dish: Grilled baby cucumbers with pickled onions, red currants and Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese
Greatest Influence: His grandparents. "My grandfather was a pilot and introduced me to international food, from France, in particular. I've always loved food and have been open to trying new things since I was a child."
Offal Memories: "One of my first food memories is from when I was about six. My grandfather used to make lamb kidneys [with] mustard over a wood fire and they were amazing."
On Culinary Schools: "It depends on your personality. If you need structure, I think they're probably great. But they don't really prepare you for the real, wild world of working in kitchens. Personally, I've learned more working alongside chefs in restaurants than I ever did in culinary school. I'm a big believer in staging and apprenticeships, rather than school."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.