Location: Evanston, IL
Why She's Amazing: Because she's updating familiar comfort foods with global flavors (like harissa, za'atar and garam masala), and the results are incredibly addictive.
Culinary School: The Art Institutes International Minnesota (Minneapolis)
Background: C-House, Lula Café (Chicago); Gramercy Tavern (New York City)
Quintessential Dish: Roast squash and brussels sprouts with house-made harissa, cilantro and pepitas
How She Got into Cooking: "When I was 19, I took a trip to France and stayed with a friend's family. They really opened my eyes to food. I came home to Minnesota and got a job in a little French restaurant waiting tables, but I spent every spare minute in the kitchen asking questions. The chef there told me, 'I don't know why you don't go to culinary school; you spend all day in the back watching the guys, you know every ingredient in every dish.'"
What She Craves When She's Not in the Kitchen: "I have an obsession with Asian food."
On Helping Cook President Obama's First State Dinner: "It was amazing. It was like being in someone's house, which was a bit weird. It's a professional kitchen but with armed guards with machine guns walking around."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.