top chef

Top Chef Season 6 Contestants and Judges Announced

Top Chef Season 6 Contestants and Judges Announced

Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

Why did our heart just skip a beat? Because Bravo’s page for the next season of Top Chef just went live (nobody seems to have gotten word from PR yet). First, the list of guest appearances: Wolfgang Puck, Todd English, Natalie Portman, Daniel Boulud, Penn & Teller, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Tim Love, Michelle Bernstein, Tyler Florence, Charlie Palmer, Paul Bartolotta, Nigella Lawson, and Jerome Bocuse. Of course, Toby Young is also back, looking really banged up from that bike accident. Among the contestants, the only New York–based chef is Ash Fulk, a sous-chef at Trestle on Tenth who loves Dan Barber and cooks by the motto “If it grows together, it goes together.” We like him already because he rocks a goatee and a bow tie.

He’ll have some stiff competition here: Chef-owner Hector Santiago was a Beard long-lister for “Best Chef, Southwest.” Michael Voltaggio is also an award winner and a chef de cuisine at José Andrés’s Bazaar in Los Angeles (maybe some Marcel action here?). Like Bryan Voltaggio (who must be his brother, since they were both born in Maryland), he has worked under Charlie Palmer. The clear favorite might just be Jennifer Carroll, who was a sous-chef at Le Bernardin before being “personally selected by Chef Ripert to lead his kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia as Chef de Cuisine of 10 Arts.”

We’ll also be rooting for Preeti Mistry, not just because she's sporting an old-school fauxhawk (actually, a lot of these chefs are), but because — okay fine, we met her at a party once. A source very close to her describes her as “the life of the party and the person that everyone always loves — she’s always the most popular kid.” But she’s plenty competitive. We’re also told she likes to use Indian food as a base while also relying on her French education, which might make her the spunkier Radhika of the season. In any case, take a look at the rest of the pack. In a video teaser, Colicchio assures us this much: “None of them look like pirates.” (Ha!) The season premieres August 26.

Ron Duprat
AGE: 40
HOMETOWN: Mare Rouge, Haiti — currently resides in Hollywood, Fla., and Naples, Fla.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef
CULINARY EDUCATION: College Aimee Cesaire and La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Jumbo Scallop, Sweet Chili Tahini Sauce, Watermelon and Avocado Slaw.
Ron is a well-seasoned executive chef, having cooked for varying establishments such as the Pelican Bay Foundation and the Montauk Yacht Club. He has cemented himself as an expert in exotic flavors — often incorporating his own Haitian Creole influences with French-Asian fusion cuisine. Ron always likes to keep vanilla bean, saffron, truffles, Spanish olive oil and chocolate on hand, and his favorite thing to make is his signature flourless chocolate cake.

Robin Leventhal
AGE: 43
HOMETOWN: Sun Valley, Idaho — currently resides in Seattle, Wash.
PROFESSION: Chef, Artist and Teacher
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self-taught
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad with a great piece of fish or meat.
Before becoming a chef, Robin was an artist. While pursuing a Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Michigan, she took a job in the catering department. This was only intended to be a summer job, but it quickly became clear she had a passion for food. Robin’s Pacific Northwest roots are the foundation of her cooking, which is accented by the flavors of her world travels. Robin formerly owned and operated Crave, a popular Seattle bistro, and currently uses her cooking and culinary connections to help raise money for Lymphoma research and is closely involved with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Preeti Mistry
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: San Francisco, Calif.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Google, Bon Appetit Management Company
CULINARY EDUCATION: Le Cordon Bleu, London
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Fennel Crust Marin Sun Farms’ Rack of Lamb, Saffron Parsnip Puree, Heirloom Carrot and English Pea Ragout with Pinot Noir Reduction

Preeti works as an Executive Chef for Bon Appetit Management Company at Google’s headquarters south of San Francisco and previously the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Born in London and raised in the US, Preeti’s Indian culture, extensive international travel, classic French culinary training and access to the best local California ingredients inspire her cooking. She enjoys building intense flavors, and truly shines when working with sauces, soups and vinaigrettes. Preeti’s commitment to seasonality, and her relationship with small local farmers are at the core of her cuisine. If she were a food, she says, “I would be a green zebra tomato - extremely distinctive from all the others, a little hard on the outside, but pure love at the center.”

Ash Fulk
GE: 29
HOMETOWN: Pleasant Hill, Calif. - currently resides in New York City
PROFESSION: Sous Chef at Trestle on Tenth
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self Taught
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Grilled Corn on the Cob with Mayonnaise - with a sweet tea to wash it down.

Ash currently serves as the Sous Chef at Trestle on Tenth in New York City. He began his cooking career in Oakland, California and quickly realized he was a natural in the kitchen. He enjoys working with foods that are regional and seasonal and follows the motto "if it grows together, it goes together." Ash loves cooking with leeks and making custards, and some of his favorite chefs include Dan Barber and Claudia Fleming.

Ashley Merriman
AGE: 32
HOMETOWN: Center Sandwich, N.H. - currently resides in Seattle, Wash.
PROFESSION: Chef at Branzino in Seattle, Wash.
CULINARY EDUCATION: Institute of Culinary Education, New York, N.Y.
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Pan-Fried Soft Shell Crabs with Ramps and Morels

Hailing from Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, she attended the Institute of Culinary Education after graduating from Hamilton College in New York. She has spent the majority of her professional career in New York City working at Butter and Seattle at Tilth, and now Branzino. She always has good quality extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemons and thyme on hand in her kitchen.

Laurine Wickett
AGE: 38
HOMETOWN: Rochester, N.Y. - currently resides in San Francisco, Calif.
PROFESSION: Chef / Owner Left Coast Catering
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Grilled corn salad with summer beans and chanterelles
Laurine is the chef and owner of Left Coast Catering. From the tender young age of 12, she knew she wanted to become a chef. Laurine's catering career began with preparing elegant dinners in the homes of leading Silicon Valley executives. Her clients required no menu- Laurine would prepare the dinner from the freshest ingredients she could find each morning. Her cuisine is based on incorporating the many cultures that make up the Bay Area.

Jesse Sandlin
AGE: 30
HOMETOWN: Baltimore, Md.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Abacrombie Fine Foods
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self-Taught
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Julienned Summer Squash Tossed with Lemon, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, Salt, Cracked Black Pepper, and a Little Bit of Butter

A Baltimore native, Jesse has spent 14 years working in professional kitchens from Maryland to Australia. She initially developed her passion for food while working for Paragary’s Restaurant Group in California under chefs Andrew Tescher and Kurt Spataro. Since her return to Baltimore, Jesse has been an integral leader in several top kitchens in the city. Her unique cuisine highlights local and seasonal ingredients while bringing an innovative twist to European flavors and techniques. Bacon, butter, duck fat, cumin and trash bags are the five items she keeps on hand at all times.

Kevin Gillespie
AGE: 26
HOMETOWN: Atlanta, Ga.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef & Partner, Woodfire Grill
CULINARY EDUCATION: Art Institute of Atlanta
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Creamed silver queen corn with a warm salad of small tomatoes and pole beans.

Determined to become a successful chef, Kevin worked part-time at various restaurants while carrying a full course load in school at the Art Institute of Atlanta. After graduating with honors, he went on to hold positions at several well-known Atlanta restaurants including Atlanta Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, Two Urban Licks and Woodfire Grill. In 2006, he and his wife Callie moved out west to Portland, Oregon, where he worked as the Executive Sous Chef at Fife Restaurant. Missing friends and family, they returned to Atlanta last year and Kevin became the Executive Chef at Woodfire Grill, where he is also a partner. Hot wings are his favorite junk food, and the five ingredients he keeps on hand at all times are banyuls vinegar, smoked pork, espelette pepper, lemon oil and lard.

Jennifer Zavala
AGE: 31
HOMETOWN: Cromwell, Conn. - currently resides in Philadelphia, Pa.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, El Camino Real
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self Taught
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Fiddle Head Ferns Sauteed in Butter Garlic Wine and Crushed Red Pepper.

Jennifer is the Executive Chef at El Camino Real in Philadelphia where she brings "border food" to a new light, focusing on Norteña and Tejas cuisines. Born into a Mexican and Italian family, she grew up with mostly Mexican cuisine and takes great pride in her ability to cook Latino food with great knowledge and skill. She uses fresh, local ingredients in her homemade style of cooking and hopes to learn more about the ever-changing culinary scene. If she could have her last meal with anyone, it would be with Julia Child, and Jennifer says, “hopefully, she’d cook.”

Jennifer Carroll
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Philadelphia, Pa.
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine 10 Arts by Eric Ripert
CULINARY EDUCATION: The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Philadelphia
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Compressed Watermelon, Chesapeake Bay Jumbo Lump Crab, Fennel Pollen and Wild Boar Prosciutto Chips

Jennifer started as a Law major at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. But the kitchen wooed her and she went on to culinary school and quickly became a sous chef at both Julia and Café Kati in San Francisco. After returning to her hometown to work in the kitchens of Sonoma and Arroyo Grill, popular eateries in Philadelphia, she then went on to become sous chef at Eric Ripert’s revered Le Bernardin in Manhattan. She was recently personally selected by Chef Ripert to lead his kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia as Chef de Cuisine of 10 Arts. Her favorite thing to make is a really good sandwich, especially late at night after work. And she is sure to keep fine sea salt, espellate citron vinegar, black peppercorns, high fat unsalted butter and setia extra virgin olive oil on her at all times.

Hector Santiago
AGE: 41
HOMETOWN: San Juan, Puerto Rico - currently resides in Atlanta, Ga.
PROFESSION: Chef-Owner, Pura Vida ~ Latino Tapas Restaurant & Bar
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS Culinary Arts, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Charcoal Grilled Skirt steak with a Vegetable Ceviche (celery, radishes, tomatoes and whatever else is available from local farmers)

Hector was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he started his cooking career working under chef Gioanna Huyke at the El San Juan Hotel & Casino. His cuisine combines classic and avante garde cooking techniques with Latin American ingredients and inspirations. Since opening his own restaurant, Pura Vida, in Atlanta, he has received many awards, including "Best Tapas or Small Plates" by numerous publications, being named a "Rising Star Chef" for Atlanta by StarChefs.com in 2007, and making it onto the "Long List" as a James Beard nominee for "Best Chef, Southeast” for the last two years (2008 & 2009). A constant student, Hector has done stages with chefs Jose Andres, Wylie Dufresne and Andoni L. Aduriz. His goal is to bring to light Latin American products, culture and cuisine. He is currently working on a project on hot peppers, and their new and different culinary uses like "taming the heat.”

Eve Aronoff
AGE: 40
HOMETOWN: Ann Arbor, Mich.
PROFESSION: Chef-Owner, Eve
CULINARY EDUCATION: Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Salad of Ripe Tomatoes, Avocado, Red Onion and Fresh Lime - with Mozzarella di Bufala and some good bread

Eve is the chef/owner of Eve, an intimate, independent restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has a distinctive style of cooking based on French Philosophy with influences including North African, West African Cuban and Vietnamese. Her style expresses her love for bold, complex and exotic flavors paired with cool, clean contrasts and textures. Author of her own cookbook, Eve: Contemporary Cuisine, Methode Traditionelle, she recently received the honor of being invited to travel to The James Beard Foundation in New York to create a multi-course dinner to showcase her style of cooking. She also served as a delegate to Terra Madre, the bi-annual international slow food meeting in Torino, Italy on behalf of the Slow Food Movement, which was founded to help facilitate working closely with local farmers and artisans.

Eli Kirshtein
AGE: 25
HOMETOWN: Atlanta, Ga.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S. Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Salad of Summer Fruits and Vegetables with various textures of raw and cooked, with some purees and sauces

Eli is Executive Chef at one of Atlanta’s most recognizable and elegant eateries - Eno Restaurant and Wine Bar. He was born in Atlanta and trained in classic French and modern American cuisines. He follows a simple cooking philosophy of using the best ingredients in the most fitting techniques. While previously training and working in several restaurants with varying styles, Eli has cultivated his own unique cooking technique. He says his favorite thing to make is “anything with good friends and some heart put into it.”

Bryan Voltaggio
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Frederick, Md.—currently resides in Urbana, Md.
PROFESSION: Chef/Partner, VOLT Restaurant
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A.
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Marinated Grilled Hanger Steak, Silver Queen Corn and Fava Bean Succotash, Cherokee Purple Heriloom Tomatoes, Rick’s Arugula

Bryan is chef and partner at VOLT, a three-star fine dining establishment in his native Frederick, Maryland. He was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America and was a protégé of celebrated chef Charlie Palmer. Bryan first fostered his passion for cooking during childhood, when his meals included produce harvested in the family garden. He has since become a strong advocate for meats, seafood, and produce that are local, sustainable and organic. Bryan says “through our choice of ingredients we become engaged in more than creating a great dining experience, but in supporting local agriculture.”

Mattin Noblia
AGE: 29
HOMETOWN: Biarritz, France - currently resides in San Francisco, Calif.
PROFESSION: Owner, Iluna Basque
CULINARY EDUCATION: C.A.P. de cuisine in southern France, the Basque Region
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Grilled Sardines and Fresh Tomato Sauce, or Boudin Noire with Caramelized Apples, or Stuffed Calamari in Ink Sauce over Rice

Mattin is the chef and owner of Iluna Basque, one of the most unique and prominent restaurants in San Francisco. Born in a small village in Basque Country, located in southwestern France, he became enamored with cooking as a small boy while watching his mother cultivate “piment d’ espelette” -Basque chile. Mattin has studied under noted chef Dominique Jolie, and incorporates a fusion of French and Spanish flavors into his cuisine. He admires French chefs such as Hubert Keller and Rolland Passot -but if Mattin could have his last meal with anyone, he would cook a candle-lit dinner for two for himself and Jessica Alba.

Michael Isabella
AGE: 34
HOMETOWN: North Jersey - currently resides in Washington, D.C.
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Zaytinya
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self-Taught
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Squash Blossoms

Michael is the Executive Chef at Jose Andres’ nationally-renowned Greek-Mediterranean restaurant, Zaytinya, in Washington, D.C. He honed his culinary skills along the East Coast - first working at a number of fine dining establishments in New York City, then at Alma de Cuba, Washington Square and a host of Stephen Starr restaurants in Philadelphia before landing at Kyma, a top-notch Greek restaurant in Atlanta. There he learned the slight flavors and nuances of Greek cuisine and went on to travel through Greece and parts of the Middle East where he picked up more tricks of the trade. Octopus is his favorite dish to prepare, and the five ingredients he always has on hand are olive oil, sea salt, lemon, dill and chives.

Michael Voltaggio
AGE: 30
HOMETOWN: Frederick, Md. - currently resides in Los Angeles, Calif.
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine at Bazaar by Jose Andres
CULINARY EDUCATION: The Greenbrier Hotel Culinary Apprenticeship Program
FAVORITE SIMPLE SUMMER RECIPE: Soft Poached Egg with Morel Mushrooms, Fava Beans, Jamon Iberico Consommé

Born in Maryland, Michael began working in restaurants at the age of 15 and hasn't worked outside the industry since. He has studied under several celebrity chefs and the majority of his training has been in European fine dining kitchens with an emphasis on modern technique, flavor and presentation. He has been the recipient of several awards including the "AAA 5 Diamond" and "Mobil Award" while serving as Chef de Cuisine at the Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida as well as a Michelin Star while serving as Chef de Cuisine of Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in California. In 2009, he was a finalist for the James Beard "Best New Restaurant" award. Michael serves as Chef de Cuisine at Bazaar by Jose Andres and describes his cooking style as sophisticated American Cuisine utilizing modern technology and classic disciplines of cooking.

Top Chef Season 6

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