'Top Chef' Season 16 Cheftestants: Where Are They Now?
Fifteen weeks ago, we watched 15 chefs arrive for a Quickfire at Churchill Downs and the Kentucky season of Top Chef was off to the races. The season was competitive from the get-go, with strong chefs winning one week only to be eliminated the next, making finale anyone's game. In the end, three chefs cooked their way to the final episode in Macau, and two ultimately duked it out until Dothan, Alabama's Kelsey Barnard Clark took home the title. But as with any season of Top Chef, just being on the show is a boon to business and name-recognition for any chef lucky enough be cast on the reality series. We asked each Season 16 cheftestant to fill us in on what they're up to now (and we'll update this article as more replies come in). Here's what they said (edited for clarity and length):
Eric Adjepong — Washington, DC
"Since Top Chef, I've been focused on building Pinch & Plate (www.pinchandplate.com), the full-service dinner party business I run with my wife, Janell, while working toward opening my own restaurant. Currently, we’re partnering with Cork Wine Bar & Market in D.C. on a series of dinners that bring the Pinch & Plate experience from private homes into a restaurant setting. This has been a great opportunity to introduce local diners to my contemporary approach to West African food alongside really beautiful wines from Cork. Being a dad to my six-month-old daughter Lennox keeps me plenty busy, too!"
Sara Bradley — Paducah, KY
"Well, I’d say the biggest thing happening in my life over the past several months has been this baby growing in my belly! She’s due at the end of May, and as my mom has been saying, 'We’re hoping Memorial Day is a Labor Day!' She’s got jokes, I tell ya. But yeah, planning with my husband and family for the big day, and constantly working on new dishes for the rotating menu at my farm to table restaurant, freight house, has kept me pretty busy.
On the restaurant side, one thing I’m VERY excited about is the upcoming expansion of our bar program. If you don’t know, our bourbon collection is quite expansive as it is, but we’re working to expand it even further to allow us to add more single barrel picks and vintage spirits, or, 'dusties' as we lovingly call them.
Other than that, we’re just looking forward to the first big spring harvest so we can get some of this excellent produce our amazing farmers provide us on your plate! I feel like there is a lot of knowledge from this past season I’ll be able to bring to our dishes that I’m just really excited about. Alllllmost as much as having this baby!"
Kelsey Barnard Clark — Dothan, AL
Pablo Lamon — Miami Beach, FL
"Since I came back from Top Chef, my life has been busier than ever! I was offered the opportunity to open my own concept at the Conrad Hotel in Brickell. This week was my last as the Chef de Cuisine at 27 Restaurant & Bar and The Broken Shaker. We'll be opening this project in November 2019, featuring a menu inspired by this beautiful city. Miami is full of nature, amazing products, vibrant colors, influences from all over the world! That truly inspires me, and my idea is to show my guests my vision of where they are: Miami. I am really looking forward to open and be another addition to Miami's young and amazing culinary scene!"
Natalie Maronski — Philadelphia, PA
"Competing on Top Chef really got me excited to get back into the kitchen. Having to stretch myself in unique ways, becoming friends with talented chefs from across the country, as well as facing adversity... all came together to improve me as a chef and person!
The timing was actually perfect as my business partner, Robert Del Femine, and I are set to begin construction on Underground Concepts — several cool venues within the nationally historic Divine Lorraine in Philadelphia. Not only is the 125-year-old iconic building architecturally significant but, its also of great societal importance as one of the first racially-integrated hotels in the country.
We hope to bridge the interconnectedness of food, music, and culture in a way that is unique to Philly. It's all about authenticity, quality, and fun to create a great experience."
Nini Nguyen — Brooklyn, NY
"Since being on Top Chef, I’ve taken a step back from Cook Space and am focusing on future ventures of my own. Teaching people how to cook is something I love immensely and I would like to do so on different platforms. A dream come true would be my own cooking show or a line of cookbooks."
Brandon Rosen — San Mateo, CA
"Things have been extremely busy since we finished the filming of Top Chef. Although this past year I have stepped away from the restaurant and fine dinning world to take a bit of time to view the industry from another angle taking the role as a private chef, I have been finding a lot of ways to keep myself involved and continue to challenge myself creatively. I have been traveling quite a bit this year, both with my clients, and to food events around the country. This past December I spent some time teaming up with Chefs Hawker Centre and Chef Tu David Phu to take the opportunity to cook some amazing food and help raise money for the victims of the ravaging California forest fires this year. It was a great opportunity to help make a difference in the community.
In April I will be competing to qualify to represent the U.S. in The World Pasta Championship, which is very exciting for me. It is a great opportunity to show another aspect of my skill set, and nothing excites me more than getting back in the ring! I will also be making an appearance at the Crave food festival in Spokane, Washington, which is a great event with some amazing people! I am designating a large portion of my time to work on a couple of future projects of my own and am hoping to have the opportunity in the future to establish a running pop-up in the Bay Area, and am constantly searching for new ventures and opportunities. It is very important to me to help make a difference in our industry and would love to get more involved in the fight against food waste, it has always been a dream of mine to work for a non profit to help consolidate this issue in our country."
Kevin Scharpf — Dubuque, IA
"Since Top Chef has finished filming I’ve been extremely busy with Brazen Open Kitchen and focusing on the growth of our company. It has been great taking the things I’ve learned from my peers on Top Chef and applying them to our daily operation. Creating friendships with many of the contestants and offering special events in Dubuque, IA has also been something that we’ve been working on…so many exciting things to come for the summer of 2019! I am also currently working on what our next project will be in Dubuque, IA that we would love to have open by early 2020!"
Caitlin Steininger — Cincinnati, OH
"The saying 'blessed with work' is the biggest understatement in America. When I first arrived home we were in the throes of construction on our second restaurant. My sister Kelly and best friend/business partner Karen managed to completely revitalize the original fire station in our neighborhood into our new BBQ Restaurant, Station Family + BBQ. Our remaining Summer was filled with recipe development and long nights of smoking until we finally opened the doors on the night of the premiere of our season of Top Chef.
Since the season started airing, we have been lucky to feed many of the guests of the challenges, being as we are the closest restaurant to Louisville, comparing notes on our favorite dishes and personalities. I have also been amazingly fortunate to get to travel and cook with a lot of my castmates. Nini is now affectionately called Aunt Nini by my children and Brian is a fan favorite with the regulars at CWC. The Super Bowl with Kelsey, Justin, and Kevin was the perfect amount of craziness, and getting to travel to New Jersey to savor every bite with David and Heirloom Kitchen was so incredibly inspiring. Connecting with Michelle and Pablo in Chicago and eating and imbibing made my heart swell. Cooking at Decca with Sara and Annie Pettry, especially after not getting to compete in that challenge, may have been one of my favorite memories of the year thus far.
As a chef, all you want to do is cook and eat and travel and be inspired. Working hard the last 12 years, building a brand and a business, sitting down and savoring was hard to do. Now I have a new family of the most incredible, the most encouraging, and the most talented chefs in the nation, I know I will never go hungry again."
Justin Sutherland — St. Paul, MN
"It has been a whirlwind since Top Chef finished filming. In January I became a managing partner of the hospitality company where my restaurant Handsome Hog opened. I now oversee eight restaurants including: Public Kitchen + Bar, Ox-Cart Ale House, Eagle Street Grille, Gray Duck, Fitzgerald's and Green Lantern. We are updating the menus and enhancing the concepts. In addition, I am very excited to join our Major League Soccer team, the Minnesota United as Culinary Consultant and guest chef at their brand new facility, Allianz Field in St. Paul. In April for the first home game, I will appear as guest chef, and have one of my Handsome Hog sandwiches served in the stadium! With so much free time my partners and I decided to move the location of my other restaurant, The Pearl and The Thief from Stillwater to Minneapolis, that should open this Summer! But perhaps the best thing since filming is having my fellow chefs come to my restaurant and being able to visit theirs!"
David Viana – Asbury Park, NJ
“Since Top Chef I’ve been really busy refining what Heirloom Kitchen does. We are focusing on creating a really curated dining experience. Digging in, working with the team to be the best we can be.
We have hosted a handful of the cheftestants at Heirloom for collaboration dinners and have been busy traveling to visit our cheftestant friends across the country and do pop up dinners. In February we hosted a Top Chef Reunion dinner at the James Beard House and I had an opportunity to cook with No Kid Hungry for the Democratic Governors Gala in Washington DC. Lastly, I’m looking forward to going to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, seeing some great friends and cooking more killer food!”
Brian Young – Boston, MA
"Whirlwind does not even begin to describe the months following the conclusion of filming Top Chef Kentucky. Since arriving home in Boston from Macau, China, I have been literally busy nonstop.
I went to visit Justin Sutherland at his flagship restaurant, Handsome Hog, in Saint Paul, MN for the television premiere of his Iron Chef episode. No surprise, Justin won. I have since been back to Handsome Hog, where I did a private whole hog butchering demonstration in front of an audience, and a subsequent collaboration dinner utilizing that very special pig as our only protein to feed 60 people five courses of food. In December, I did a collaboration pop-up dinner with Kevin Scharpf and David Viana at his restaurant in Old Bridge, CT.
Also in December, I left my post as the Chef de Cuisine of Cultivar to accept the position of Executive Chef of The Emory, a modern barroom which will feature classic Italian and French comfort food. Think brasserie, but with a small menu that will change as frequently as several times a month. Expect to see high French classic techniques like pâté en croüte, tatrilliers, and even a play on a perfect French omelette. These will be coupled with my love of handmade Italian pastas and salumi with traditional sauces that have been staples in places like Sardinia and Emilia for hundreds of years. It goes without saying that the menu will be protein forward, and we will even be sourcing whole local New England hogs and beeves for our “Butcher’s Cut Steak Program.” Don’t count us out on vegetables though, as we will also focus our small plate program on very vegetarian, (and yes, even vegan) friendly options. The managing partner Justin Ito-Adler, owner Emory “Andy” Kilgore, and I expect to be open just in time for warm weather and patio season in mid-spring.
This month I am getting ready to do a dinner collab with Caitlin at her flagship in Cincinnati, CWC. Other than that, I am joining the Williams Sonoma Chef’s Collaborative 2019 team, and am focusing my energy on opening my new project, The Emory in Beacon Hill, Boston, MA."
To plan your own Top Chef-themed trek through the Bluegrass State, check out our Ultimate Top Chef Tour of Kentucky.