Top Chef Winners — Where Are They Now?

It’s been a long two decades since the sentence “please pack your knives and go” was first uttered by then-host Katie Lee in Top Chef’s premiere episode (Padma Lakshmi stepped into the hosting gig in the next season). From the very beginning, the show, helmed by chef Tom Colicchio and Food and Wine editor Gail Simmons, promised something new — a chef-driven and technique-heavy cooking competition where cheftestants took part in challenges ranging from basic prep to the now ubiquitous Restaurant Wars.

In the process, the show had an interesting cultural impact on the world of food television, launching the careers of winners, and also making household names of some of the runners-up and notable personalities who never actually won their season (such as Tiffani Faison, Marcel Vigneron and Antonia Lofaso, who have now carved out their place as industry veterans). Others have gone on to launch restaurants across the country, using prize money or their new-found fame and natural grit to take on management roles. Here’s a look at what the Top Chef winners of each season are doing now.

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Season One (San Francisco) — Harold Dieterle

The inaugural season of Top Chef had some strong contenders off the top: although Harold Dieterle ultimately took home the prize, contenders Tiffani Faison and Lee-Anne Wong became fixtures on the food scene (Wong actually worked behind the scenes in upcoming seasons of Top Chef as a culinary producer, while Faison did a redemption edit from her initial appearance and went on to judge on Chopped, and win in Tournament of Champions).

Dieterle, flush with his winnings, started opening restaurants. First Perilla and Kin Shop with business partner Alicia Nosenzo (both have closed now) and most recently, Il Totano, which opened in New York in May 2024.

Season Two (Los Angeles) — Ilan Hall

Watchers of this scandalous season got to see the series’ first disqualification and a high-stakes finale between winner Ilan Hall and runner-up Marcel Vigneron, who channeled his love of competition into later seasons of Top Chef and 24 in 24, where he took home the win.

Hall went on to open up The Gorbals in Los Angeles and New York (replaced by his newer concept, Esh) and Ramen Hood with Rahul Khopkar. He also started up his own after-hours cooking competition show called Knife Fight.

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Season Three (Miami) — Hung Huynh

This season saw the rise of the zaniness of Brian Malarkey (who would later bring his high energy to judging shows such as Guy’s Grocery Games), but the ultimate winner was Hung Huynh, who took top billing for his technical chops in the kitchen.

Huynh’s win allowed him to travel and open up Catch, with locations throughout the world, as well as joining the Omai Group in Orlando. His most recent project is Bang Bang Noodle Co., featuring hand-pulled noodles.

Stephanie Izard in Tournament of Champions

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Season Four (Chicago) — Stephanie Izard

Season Four launched the food television careers of multiple chefs, including Richard Blais, Antonia Lofaso, Spike Mendelsohn, and Dale Talde, all of whom returned to compete on Top Chef Masters, as well as judging on countless Food Network shows. Superstar Stephanie Izard was a clear leader, however, whose savvy gameplay and willingness to challenge herself (she made a wedding cake at the end of a gruelling 14-hour Wedding Wars, for example), brought her the win.

Izard’s restaurants are standouts in Chicago’s great scene, and her first place, Girl & The Goat, soon expanded into other cuisines such as Chinese (Duck Duck Goat), Peruvian (Cabra) and restaurants in both Chicago and LA, as well as multiple television appearances on Chopped, Iron Chef (winning a permanent position in 2017) and others.

Season Five (New York) — Hosea Rosenberg

Season Five introduced many big personalities. Carla Hall’s bouncy cheerfulness that would later serve her well as a judge on various Food Network Baking Championships. Fabio Viviani’s ability to come up with a backstory for any dish kept viewers entertained, as did a developing romance between two of the contestants: Leah Cohen and winner Hosea Rosenberg.

After the competition, Rosenbergopened up Blackbelly Market and Santo (based on his childhood in New Mexico) in Boulder, Colorado and started a charitable foundation for research into MCTO, a condition which afflicts his daughter.

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Season Six (Las Vegas) — Michael Voltaggio

This season was a return to cooking in a big way, with a powerhouse final four: Kevin Gillespie, Jennifer Carroll, and Michael and Bryan Voltaggio, all of whom returned to the Top Chef multiverse to compete in later iterations of the show (the brothers Voltaggio also sparred in cooking competitions and their own show later on).

Michael Voltaggio’s competitive spirit got him the win, and he’s opened Ink, Ink.sack, and Volt. He shared the brotherly love with Bryan to start STRFSH sandwich shop and Estuary, as well as The Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse. Michael is also one of the in-house competitors on Bobby’s Triple Threat.

Season Seven (Washington) — Kevin Sbraga

Although the political references were kept pretty minimal (minus a bipartisan sandwich challenge), the Washington-based season saw Kevin Sbraga beat Angelo Sosa for the win. Sosa returned for the All-Stars season along with Bobby’s Triple Threat house competitor Tiffany Derry.

Sbraga opened five restaurants in five years following the show, although none of them ultimately succeeded. Most recently, he opened Sonny&Sons, a hot chicken concept, which also closed.

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Season Eight (All Stars) — Richard Blais

Not even a decade in, Top Chef had already amassed enough fan favourites to have a season full of runner-ups. Food Network stalwart Richard Blais beat out a slew of other contestants.

Where haven’t you seen Blais? Apart from his four restaurants — California English, Four Flamingos (San Diego and Orlando) and Ember and Rye — he tours with a stand-up comedy cooking show, has a podcast called “Starving for Attention and judges on Guy’s Grocery Games, Next Level Kitchen and other cooking shows.


Season Ten (Seattle) — Kristen Kish

This season’s winner should look familiar — Kristen Kish took over from Padma Lakshmi in the current season of Top Chef as host.

Currently, she is the chef and partner at Arlo Grey, the restaurant she founded in Austin spotlighting the ingredients of central Texas. She’s also launched a line of chef-inspired cocktails called Kish Apéritif, with flavours drawing on different environmental taste profiles such as earth.

Season Eleven (New Orleans) Nicholas Elmi

Although Nicholas Elmi won this season, judges had to defend their choice, with Tom Colicchio going as far as to release the judge’s scores on Twitter. Fan favourite Nina Compton and Shirley Chung would go on to appear in other cooking competitions.

Elmi opened Laurel after Top Chef, then Lark, The Landing Kitchen and event space The Pump House, all in Philadelphia.

Mei Lin in Tournament of Champions

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Season Twelve (Boston) — Mei Lin

Fierce competitor Mei Lin won this season, beating out Gregory Gourdet using flavours inspired by Chinese ingredients (one of the final dishes she cooked was congee). She also has Top Chef insight, having worked under the Voltaggios at Ink and Volt.

Lin opened Nightshade in Los Angeles, and Daybird, a Szechuan hot fried chicken concept. Lin also won the Food Network Tournament of Champions season four in 2023.

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Season Thirteen (California) — Jeremy Ford

Jeremy Ford may hail from Florida, but won over judges in California with his skills in the Top Chef kitchen (and got to have Jean-Georges Vongerichten as his mentor and sous chef for the final challenge). He took top prize over fellow contestants including Kwame Onwuachi and Amar Santana.

After Top Chef, Ford opened Stubborn Seed (with another location in Las Vegas coming soon) and The Butcher’s Club, along with co-hosting Fast Foodies with Kristen Kish.

Brooke Williamson in Tournament of Champions

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Season Fourteen (Charleston) Brooke Williamson

The second time was the charm for winner Brooke Williamson, who first tested her skills in season ten of Top Chef. This season pitted eight newcomers against show veterans, including Casey Thompson, who had already competed in Season Three and Eight.

Williamson is another fixture on the Food Network landscape, appearing on shows from Guy’s Grocery Games, Beachside Brawl, and Tournament of Champions (where she was the first winner). She is also the third Top Chef alum to round out Bobby’s Triple Threat team. Her restaurants include Amuse Café and Beechwood restaurant, as well as a four in one concept called Playa Provisions.


Season Fifteen (Colorado) — Joe Flamm

This season saw a first on Last Chance Kitchen. One of four contestants from previous seasons got their chance to cook their way back into the competition. Season one’s Lee-Ann Wong rejoined the competitors but ultimately lost to Joe Flamm.

Flamm opened Chicago-based Rose Mary restaurant, based on Italian and Croatian cuisine, as well as BLVD Steakhouse and a new concept coming this year to Fulton Market.

Kelsey Barnard Clark in Tournament of Champions

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Season Sixteen (Kentucky) Kelsey Barnard Clark

Kelsey Barnard Clark had the double win of taking top prize and fan favourite in season sixteen. This season also introduced Eric Adjepong, who has become a Food Network staple hosting Alex vs. America and Wildcard Kitchen.

After Barnard Clark’s success, she returned to being owner and executive chef of KBC, a restaurant, bakery, and catering business in Alabama. She’s also appeared on (and won) Guy’s Grocery Games and Bobby’s Triple Threat.

Season Seventeen (Los Angeles) Melissa King

Time for a second All-Stars competition — the show returned to season two’s stomping grounds of Los Angeles. Winner Melissa King from season twelve also won fan favourite, and donated her winnings to social justice organizations such as Asian Americans For Equality, Asian Youth Center, The Trevor Project, and National Black Justice Coalition.

As an entrepreneur, King is stirring multiple pots as an activist, teacher via online classes, model, hot sauce and spice maker and apparel creator.


Season Nineteen (Houston) and Twenty (World All-Stars) — Buddha Lo

Why are these two seasons combined? Buddha Lo, who swept to victory in Season Nineteen, then re-entered in the very next season — and won again. He told The New York Times that he started watching the show at 15 years old, noting the contestants’ strategies. Every time, Id write down the reason why they lost or the reason why they won,” he said.

This overachiever is currently the executive chef of Markys and Huso In NYC, a caviar-tasting menu restaurant.