Steininger was the first chef to pack her knives on the 16th season.
Credit: Courtesy of Bravo

Every chef competing on Top Chef wants the opportunity to show off their skills and establish themselves as a contender, not end up in the bottom of the pack with Padma Lakshmi asking them to pack their knives and go. Last week, Caitlin Steininger, the bubbly chef from Ohio, was the first to go after making a batch of lackluster biscuits on top of a stewed tomato cobbler. "It’s the one thing my boys told me not to do," Caitlin laughs during her outro as she is seen packing her knife kit. With such little time on the show, it feels like we hardly got a chance to get to know the chef, so we spoke with her about her brief run as a cheftestant and if she has any regrets.

Food & Wine: What inspired you to compete on Top Chef?

Caitlin Steininger: I grew up (as a chef) watching Top Chef. It was always a dream, but never felt possible, so when I felt I was ready and could make it work, there was no turning back.

FW: What was the biggest lesson during your time on Top Chef? Did you learn something new about yourself or your cooking that you'll take with you?

CS: The biggest lesson I learned during Top Chef is the importance of making friends with other fellow chefs. It is easy when you are working to keep your head down and just focus on the tasks at hand, but it is amazing now having a network of other chefs to tap into if I can't quite nail a certain dish, or I have a question about where to source something.

The biggest thing I learned about myself would be that I have the chops to hang with the chefs I admire and respect. I know I was eliminated first, but it is no easy feat getting on the show, and to have so many people decide I could compete was big.

FW: What did you think when you first met your competitors and saw them in action?

CS: I feel like, for the majority of us, we were all scared shitless. (I don't know if that is street legal, but I cannot think of a better way to say it.) In the first competition, you don't know where you will fall, but you just want to get to the next day, and seeing everyone be studs in the kitchen does not help ease your nerves.

FW: Do you feel like one of your competitors should have gone home instead of you? Who?

CS: I am disappointed that I went first, but I deserved to go home because I did not execute my dish properly.

FW: Who are you rooting for to win Top Chef?

CS: I only got to spend one night in the house, but my roommates are the people I am rooting for. Natalie is just a stud, she is quiet at first, but full of brilliance. Nini is hilarious, but I pity the fool who tries to beat her. And Kelsey is sweet, but I know she carries a big knife.

FW: What do you wish you had done differently in the elimination challenge?

CS: I would say my biggest regret is wrapping the biscuits right after they were pulled from the oven, but we were out of time and the event was the next day. All of the trapped moisture is definitely the cause of my soggy biscuits.

FW: Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that you wish you had gotten the opportunity to show the judges?

CS: I would say I didn't have a lot of tricks I wanted to show off, but I was excited to show off my knowledge of Kentucky foods. I was raised on the comfort food of Kentucky, and I think that really would have impressed the judges.

FW: If you had to do the Kentucky Derby party challenge again, would you do a different dish? If so, what would it be?

CS: In all honesty, I have not thought about this before. I have mulled over and over again on how I would have done my dish differently, but I haven't really thought about what other dish I would have made.

FW: What was your strategy going into Last Chance Kitchen?

CS: Just go. You don't have time to think, the oven never seems to be hot enough, there is never enough time, so just go.

FW: What did you think when you saw the veterans you would be competing against in Last Chance Kitchen?

CS: My first thought was, of courseeeeee. There is not one easy part of Top Chef, and there is no reason LCK would be any different.

Episode 2 of ‘Top Chef’ in Kentucky airs Thursday, December 13 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. ‘Last Chance Kitchen’ streams immediately following the show at Find additional interviews, chef bios, and more at