Why He's Amazing: Because at age 28, he already has combined his farm-kid background with degrees from two culinary institutions to become a champion in the South's local-ingredient movement.
Culinary School: The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, NY), Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale (Scottsdale, AZ)
Background: True Food Kitchen (Scottsdale); McCrady's, Husk (Charleston, SC)
Quintessential Dish: Chanterelle soup with chestnut pudding and pear
Early Connection to Food: "My grandfather had a farm (in Castalian Springs, Tennessee) and my grandmother had a diner. She makes really good crowder peas. They're a bit heartier than field peas. She would just cook them really slow with ham hocks, onions, celery and thyme. She used ham stock to cook them, and a little hot sauce to finish."
Defining Physical Characteristic: His spiky, upswept hairdo (sometimes hidden under a trucker cap).
Seed Saving: While working at McCrady's, which grows a lot of its own produce, he helped take care of the heirloom seed bank.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.