Location: Washington, DC
Why She's Amazing: Because her enthusiasm for food and the knowledge she gained cooking with Thomas Keller and Marcus Samuelsson are evident in her exquisite, hyperseasonal dishes.
Culinary School: The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College (Philadelphia)
Background: Graffiato, Zaytinya (Washington, DC); Per Se (New York City); Bouchon (Yountville, CA); The Rittenhouse Hotel (Philadelphia)
Quintessential Dish: Carrot cavatelli with lobster, morels, spring peas and nasturtium
One of Her Favorite Childhood Dishes: Her father's Top Ramen Surprise (still a late-night go-to recipe): stir-fried ramen noodles with whatever leftover meat and vegetables are on hand, an egg and the contents of the ramen-seasoning packet.
On Her Carrot Cavatelli: "I source [the nasturtiums] and other edible flowers from a Mennonite farm cooperative in Lancaster County. For the morels, I like to use the dark varieties from Oregon when available because they have a little more earthiness and a stronger flavor. Otherwise, for lighter dishes and when in season, I use local, sandy morels that are blonder in color and closer to the size of your pinky."
Confession: "I might be really good at what I do (cooking) but I'm a little messy. I try, I try real hard but no matter what I do, things just fall out of my hands."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.