Top Chef

Top Chef Scouting Report: A Tale of Two Jennifers

Jennifer Carroll
Jennifer Carroll Photo: Courtesy of Bravo

Bravo likes to keep their bios of the Top Chef contestants short and sweet, but we were wondering what else might we be able to dig up on the Jennifers representing Philadelphia? We’ve already interviewed Jennifer Carroll and Jennifer Zavala, but we snooped around to see if we could find out any info that will help us to handicap how they’ll perform on Top Chef: Las Vegas? What we found: Carroll’s junior prom date and on Zavala, crickets…

This is Philly, after all, where it’s impossible to escape your past if you grew up here. There will always be someone you went to high school with or who lived down the street from you or knew your brother who pops up at precisely the wrong moment. Everyone knows everyone through one way or another; it’s both the blessing and curse of the city.

Which brings us to Jennifer Carroll, 33, who grew up in the Great Northeast, attended Mount St Joseph’s Academy in Flourtown and went to the junior prom with one Timothy Hogan, graduate of Saint Joseph’s Prep. Here’s what Hogan had to say about the young Carroll.

“Jen was my date to the Prep’s junior prom. She is tough as nails, sharp as hell, and was an awesome athlete. Jen and her sisters were always the life of the party and some of the sweetest Philly girls I’ve known. Regrettably, my dating life has been in a slow, downward spiral ever since.”

We also spoke to chef Derek Davis, who was Carroll’s employer for five years when she worked his former restaurant Sonoma in Manayunk (now Derek’s) in the late 1990s. Interesting fact: Carroll’s mom also worked at Sonoma as a hostess. Here’s what Davis had to say, when asked what Carroll was like in the kitchen:

“She got down and got dirty and she cleaned up nicely - meaning that she could be with the boys but not be one of the boys. She was quite competent - she could dish it out. At the time, Sonoma was a real fast-paced restaurant - we served 300 to 400 people every night. It was all about speed and repetition and she got that.”

Does he think she could win Top Chef?

“I don’t see why not - I’ve other seen other years of the competition and the people that won. I wouldn’t be surprised if she won. She could win, sure.”

So, tough as nails, sharp as hell, an awesome athlete, the life of the party, can get down and dirty with the boys, but clean up nicely and knows both speed and fine dining? Sounds like a Top Chef contender to us.

As for Jennifer Zavala, 31, she’s from Cromwell, Connecticut and she hasn’t been in town for long enough to establish the kind of Philly ties that bind and occasionally gag. All we’ve been able to learn is that she’s worked in Connecticut, California, North Carolina, St. Croix and Manhattan and is “a total sweetheart.” But aren’t those the ones you always have to watch out for?

Read scouting reports on all the Top Chef contestants at Grub Street NY.

Chef Jennifer Carroll’s Biography [10 Arts]
Jennifer Carroll’s Top Chef Bio [Bravo]
Jennifer Zavala’s Top Chef Bio [Bravo]

Top Chef Scouting Report: A Tale of Two Jennifers