'Top Chef' Houston: Here Are All the Chefs Competing This Season

·4 min read
Top Chef Season 19 Cheftestant portraits
Top Chef Season 19 Cheftestant portraits

Bravo

They say everything's bigger in Texas, so we're anxious to see if that holds true for the cooking competitions when Top Chef hits the Lone Star State later this year. Today, the Bravo series announced its official premiere date and cast for the upcoming 19th season in Houston. Mark your calendars, because the Emmy-winning reality show is returning on March 3, 2022.

Padma Lakshmi is back as host and will sit at the Judges' Table alongside Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, with some Top Chef all-stars and local and national culinary icons also filling seats each week. They'll be critiquing the cheftestants' takes on challenges inspired by everyting from football to NASA to dinosaurs to Gulf Coast seafood and Houston's rich variety of food traditions.

"In the all-new season, the chefs will put their expert take on iconic regional dishes, while also being immersed in the ethnic diversity that has come to define Houston's culinary identity," the premiere date announcement explains. "With the city being home to the largest Nigerian population in the country, the chefs will be put to the test for a quickfire spotlighting Nigerian cuisine and an elimination challenge tasking them to feed Houstonians at an Asian Night Market that draws inspiration from some of the cities' largest Asian communities. The chefs must also mess with Houston, Texas by putting their own spin on beloved staples including BBQ, biscuits, queso and the classic Tex-Mex original, the fajita, which was popularized in the city."

Take a sneak peek at Top Chef in Houston below:

The winner of Top Chef receives $250,000 furnished by S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water and a feature in Food & Wine, as well as an appearance at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. So who will be vying for that title? Check out each of the 15 cheftestant bios (courtesy of Bravo) to see if your city, state, or even favorite restaurant is represented this season:

Damarr Brown

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Current city of residence: Chicago, IL
Occupation/Profession: Chef de Cuisine, Virtue

Damarr Brown is the Chef de Cuisine at Virtue restaurant located on the southside of Chicago. He fell in love with cooking at a young age while spending time in the kitchen with his grandmother. Damarr formalized his culinary skills at Le Cordon Bleu college of culinary arts in Chicago and continued to train in some of cities' finest kitchens including mk, the Capital Grille, and one Michelin-starred restaurant Roister. Damarr reunited with his mentor Erick Williams to open Virtue, which was named one of America's Best New Restaurants by Esquire in 2019. His culinary focus at Virtue draws from familiar flavors he grew up with, pairing them with his learnings and takeaways from past kitchens.

Damarr Brown
Damarr Brown

Jo Chan

Hometown: Palmdale, California
Current city of residence: Austin, TX
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef

Jo Chan graduated from San Diego State University before attending the San Diego Culinary Institute. In 2012, she moved to New York City, where she began her career at Nobu Fifty-Seven. From there she went to work under Jonathan Waxman at Barbuto in the West Village. Her time at Barbuto brought her to the kitchen of fellow Barbuto alumni Justin Smillie, who collaborated with Stephen Starr to create Upland. Chef Jo then went to Scandinavia as the travelling Executive Chef for James Beard winner Marcus Samuelsson. She moved to Austin in 2018, where she became Executive Chef at Eberly. She has found a strong community in this city and hopes to deepen her roots here in the coming years. Her new project will combine her love of Italian food with Austin's unique appetite for high-quality ingredients served in a casual setting. She lives with her beautiful fiancée, who is an English professor at Texas State University, and their two perfect dogs, Blue and Luna.

Jo Chan
Jo Chan

Monique Feybesse

Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Current city of residence: Vallejo, CA
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner of Tarts de Feybesse

A San Francisco native, Chef Monique Feybesse began her career in 2007 when she graduated from the California Culinary Academy and joined the opening team at Madera restaurant at Rosewood Sand Hill and at Masa's in San Francisco. In 2013, she booked a one-way ticket to Copenhagen and earned a position at Geranium Restaurant under Bocuse d'Or Legend Rasmus Kofoed. She later relocated to Paris as part of the opening team of Chef Yannick Alleno's Pavillon Ledoyen, which earned three Michelin stars within their first year. Her resume also includes Atera in New York and Ninebark in Napa Valley, under Chef Matthew Lightner. After moving back to the Bay Area to start a family in 2016, Monique became Chef de Cuisine of Cavallo Point's Murray Circle restaurant later leading the culinary department at Robert Sinskey Vineyards. She now is focusing solely on building the brand of Tarts de Feybesse with her husband Paul while enjoying watching her two young sons grow up and destroy the house.

Monique Feybesse
Monique Feybesse

Leia Gaccione

Hometown: Passaic, NJ
Current city of residence: Morristown, NJ
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, south+pine American eatery

Leia Gaccione is the Chef and Owner of south+pine American eatery in Morristown, NJ. As a child, Leia was enamored with cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and Julia Child. As an adult, she studied culinary arts and restaurant management at the New York Restaurant School and has trained in NYC, New Jersey, Connecticut and Las Vegas, before opening south+pine in 2015. Leia has appeared on Iron Chef America, Beat Bobby Flay, Iron Chef Showdown, Chopped and is the host of the documentary film Her Name Is Chef. Her mission is to serve seasonal and locally sourced food made with lots of love and to remain a neighborhood staple in the Morristown community.

Leia Gaccione
Leia Gaccione

Evelyn Garcia

Hometown: Houston, TX
Current city of residence: Houston, TX
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Co-Owner, Kin HTX

A Houston native, born to parents from Mexico and El Salvador, Chef Evelyn García is the Chef and Co- Owner of Kin HTX. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Evelyn cooked her way through New York City with stints at Jean George's Spice Market under Chef Anthony Ricco, Masak with Chef Larry Reutens and Kin Shop with Top Chef season one winner Harold Dieterle. After 10 years in NYC honing her skills, passion and drive for Southeast Asian food and culture, she decided to move back to her hometown of Houston and open Kin HTX, a Southeast Asian inspired concept. From pop-ups to chef residencies to a restaurant and a product line, Kin HTX continues to evolve and showcase Evelyn's passion for Southeast Asian flavors and local agriculture.

Evelyn Garcia
Evelyn Garcia

Robert Hernandez

Hometown: Downey, CA
Current city of residence: San Francisco, CA
Occupation/Profession: Private Chef

Robert Hernandez is a Private Chef in San Francisco, CA. He grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles where his passion for food grew through family gatherings and his mother's cooking. Some of Robert's favorite childhood memories include large gatherings around the kitchen table, eating ceviche, tamales, essentially anything his mother or aunt put on the table. Robert has worked in many notable restaurants in San Francisco, including one Michelin-starred restaurant Octavia. At Octavia, Robert worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine and was recognized as San Francisco's Rising Star Chef in 2019. There, he honed his culinary skills and developed a passion for marrying seasonal ingredients with his inherited flavor profiles. Methodical techniques have shaped his elevated, yet approachable cuisine. Apart from cooking, Robert enjoys binge watching his favorite The Real Housewives franchise, traveling and spending time with his family.

Robert Hernandez
Robert Hernandez

Jae Jung

Hometown: Seoul, Korea
Current city of residence: New York, NY
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, KJUN

Chef Jae Jung is the chef and owner of KJUN, a Korean-Cajun pop-up in New York City. Originally from Seoul, Chef Jae left her family to come to the United States in 2009 to attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Upon graduation, she moved to New Orleans and fell in love with Cajun food while working in the kitchens of the city's most-decorated restaurants, including August, Domenica, Herbsaint and Dooky Chase. During these formative years, Jae developed her distinctive Korean-Cajun flavors and techniques, as well as her deep commitment to the spirit of Southern cuisine and
hospitality. In 2014, Jae relocated to New York City to work in some of the city's most prestigious Michelin-starred restaurants, including Oceana, Le Bernardin, the NoMad Restaurant, and most recently as the sous chef of the famed Café Boulud. In 2021, she launched her first startup, KJUN, introducing hungry New Yorkers to her distinctive blend of Korean and Cajun flavors, ingredients, and dishes. Her cuisine has been featured in the New York Times, Eater, FOOD & WINE Magazine, Bon Appétit Magazine, the New Yorker, and Bloomberg Pursuits, which recently named KJUN one of the Best New Restaurants in New York.

Jae Jung
Jae Jung

Jackson Kalb

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Current city of residence: Los Angeles, CA
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, Jame Enoteca & Ospi; Chef/Partner at Wake&Late

Jackson Kalb is the Chef and Owner of Jame Enoteca and Ospi in Los Angeles, CA along with his wife, Melissa. He also serves as the Chef and Partner of Wake&Late. Jackson's culinary career started at age 13 in the kitchen of Josiah Citrin's Melisse Restaurant, where he worked weekends and holidays throughout middle and high school. Jackson attended Cornell University's school of Hotel Administration and trained at top restaurants including Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, NV, Chicago's Alinea, Union Square Cafe in New York, and Hillstone Restaurant Group. In 2022, he plans to open his third restaurant in Los Angeles, Gemma di Mare. He is also developing a line of jarred pasta sauces and producing software to help independent chefs.

Jackson Kalb
Jackson Kalb

Sam Kang

Hometown: Gardena, CA
Current city of residence: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation/Profession: Chef Educator

A Southern California native, Sam Kang headed to New York in 2010 with just $700 in his pocket and the goal of becoming a head chef. His first job was at Chef David Chang's Momofuku Ko, a two Michelin-starred restaurant where he developed his foundation for cooking. In 2012, Sam went on to work with Chef Daniel Humm at the three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, which laid a foundation of teamwork, organization, and finesse. In 2016, Sam returned to Momofuku Ko as a Sous Chef and helped open The Bar at Ko and Wayo, where he was the Chef de Cuisine. Since 2020, Chef Sam has focused on a new passion for teaching and educating kids about food.

Sam Kang
Sam Kang

Luke Kolpin

Hometown: Seattle, WA
Current city of residence: Seattle, WA
Occupation/Profession: Chef

Seattle native Luke Kolpin began his cooking journey at Seattle Central College's culinary program. After graduating, Luke went on to work at many Seattle restaurants including Canlis, an upscale fine dining destination. Looking to further his culinary expertise, Luke accepted a job under Chef Rene Redzepi at the three Michelin-starred, world-renowned restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. While at Noma, he had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most talented chefs in the culinary industry and earned the role of Sous Chef. After eight years at Noma, Luke decided to head back home to Seattle. When feeding himself, Luke's everyday go-to dish is a sandwich as there are endless possibilities of perfection!

Luke Kolpin
Luke Kolpin

Buddha Lo

Hometown: Port Douglas, Australia
Current city of residence: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef, Marky's Caviar & Huso

Buddha Lo is the Executive Chef at Huso, the Michelin plate restaurant inside Marky's Caviar serving an 8-course tasting menu. Buddha learned the foundations of flavor and the rules of the kitchen at a very young age by working for his father at his family's Chinese restaurant in Port Douglas, Australia. At age 14, he pursued his career by working at a 5-star resort on the weekends. After culinary school, Buddha moved to London to work at the three Michelin-starred restaurant Gordon Ramsay, where he met his mentor, Clare Smyth. He then moved to New York City and spent a year at three Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park where he learned to push himself in the world of fine dining. Don't be misled by his formal training, Buddha is obsessed with everything to do with food and cooking whether it is eating street food or working at the best restaurant in the world. Buddha and his wife Rebekah met in the kitchen in Melbourne and have been together for 10 years, she is currently the pastry sous at Eleven Madison Park.

Buddha Lo
Buddha Lo

Stephanie Miller

Hometown: Bismarck, ND
Current city of residence: Bismarck, ND
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, Butterhorn & Owner, Shelter Belt

Stephanie Miller is the Chef and Owner of Butterhorn and Owner of Shelter Belt in Bismarck, ND. Growing up, she fell in love with cooking with her grandmothers and frequently made meals by herself for her large family at a very young age. After attending college at the University of North Dakota for pre-med, Stephanie switched gears and attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis. She spent the next seven years cooking with distinguished James Beard-nominated chefs Lenny Russo and Doug Flicker. Following her work at the James Beard-nominated restaurant Piccolo, she became Executive Chef at Italian Eatery, which was named Minneapolis' Best Italian in 2016 by Mpls St. Paul Magazine. Stephanie then moved back to her hometown of Bismarck and opened two restaurants, Butterhorn and Shelter Belt, with her husband Shane. Each restaurant focuses on the history of North Dakota and her state pride with menu items including lefse, bison and kuchen.

Stephanie Miller
Stephanie Miller

Ashleigh Shanti

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
Current city of residence: Asheville, NC
Occupation/Profession: Chef/Owner, Good Hot Fish

Ashleigh Shanti is Chef and Creator of Good Hot Fish, an Asheville, North Carolina-based fish fry pop up. Her cuisine honors Black foodways while also paying homage to her coastal Virginia upbringing where she stripped collard greens before she could walk. After earning her Bachelor's in Marketing at Hampton University, Ashleigh studied Culinary Arts at Baltimore International College. She honed her skills at a variety of restaurants ranging from Northern Italian to Classic French, but Southern Appalachian cuisine is her culinary love language. Ashleigh was awarded 2019 Eater Young Gun and named a 2020 finalist for James Beard "Rising Star Chef of the Year" award during her tenure as Chef de Cuisine at John Fleer's Benne on Eagle. When she's not in the kitchen, Ashleigh can be found outdoors, birding, foraging or hiking the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with her 10-year-old Vizsla, Roux and her lovely partner, Meaghan.

Ashleigh Shanti
Ashleigh Shanti

Nick Wallace

Hometown: Edwards, MS
Current city of residence: Jackson, MS
Occupation/Profession: Chef, Nick Wallace Culinary

Nick Wallace is the Founder and Chef of Nick Wallace Culinary, Nick Wallace Catering, Nissan Café by Nick Wallace, and soon to be "CHURN Creameries." Born and raised in Mississippi, he began his culinary training at an early age in his grandmothers' kitchens, where he absorbed the knowledge and guidance that inspired his love for food. Nick has served as Executive Chef for some of the country's largest and most prominent museums and hotels. He has also been featured on notable food television programs. He works closely with local farmers and combines his family's farm origins with a sophisticated French method to create a unique and modern Mississippi cuisine that is as comforting as it is exciting. His non-profit organization, Creativity Kitchen, works with Jackson Public Schools to provide more flavorful and nutritious meals for students as well as educate them about healthy eating and the skills and value of farm-to-table practices. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for Hunger Free America, Nick has also established partnerships with major food and beverage companies as well as organizations including Share the Gulf, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi and the American Cancer Society. Recently, Nick's love for his state and vision for culinary innovation earned him Best Chef of Mississippi honors, which he uses to motivate himself to further grow his understanding of flavor and technique and to better serve his family and community.

Nick Wallace
Nick Wallace

Sarah Welch

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Current city of residence: Detroit, MI
Occupation/Profession: Executive Chef, Marrow; Partner, Mink

Sarah Welch is the Executive Chef, Founding Member and Equity Partner at Marrow. She is also the co-Founder of seafood-centric restaurant Mink in Detroit's Corktown. Marrow was voted a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in the country by the James Beard Foundation in 2019, and in that same year was named one of the top new restaurants by Eater. The following year, Sarah was named a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist in the Best Chef in the Great Lakes category. Prior to Marrow, she was Executive Chef at Republic and Parks and Recreation for two years. Sarah trained at the renowned International Culinary Center in NYC after getting a business degree at Michigan State University. She credits her childhood experience of growing up partially in Jamaica as an inspiration for becoming a chef.

Sarah Welch
Sarah Welch

Season 19 of Top Chef in Houston airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Bravo beginning March 3, 2022. Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen will stream immediately following each episode starting March 10. Find more information at bravotv.com/top-chef.