Since its inaugural season two decades ago, Top Chef has reigned high among cooking show royalty. Now, the show is celebrating its chef aristocracy with appropriate pomp and circumstance: kicking off in London and building to a grand finale in Paris, Top Chef World All Stars gathers 16 winners and finalists from the show and its numerous offshoots and brings them back into the fold to compete on a global stage for a grand prize of $250,000.
Although characters and egos have occasionally collided over the years, the show was ultimately about technique — a relatively unique take in the in the televised cooking competition arena, which now often spotlights home cooks. Phrases such as “quickfire challenges”, “cheftestant” and “pack your knives and go” entered the culinary lexicon and hosts Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, already famous in their own right, became household names.
Top Chef’s legacy is a complicated one, to some extent, with its own share of controversy drawing fire from critics. Nevertheless, the show has spawned multiple spin-offs (Top Chef: Just Desserts and Top Chef Jr.), international versions of the show such as Top Chef Canada and countless imitators over the years. Its alumni have gone on to serve as guest judges and fixtures on other shows (Michael Voltaggio, Richard Blais, Eric Adjepong, Kristen Kish, and Stephanie Izard have all appeared on Food Network Canada shows).
Most importantly, the emphasis for the judges was always the food — in fact, season five saw an irate Colicchio, fed up with the lacklustre quality of dishes the contestants were putting out, offering a backstage talking to about needing to up their game after one of the challenges. For cheftestants, this pressure can sometimes drive them to soaring heights of fancy that takes them well beyond their previous limits, or causes them to stumble in spectacular fails. Either way, the competition allows them to show off technique, culinary trend, influences and their own backgrounds and heritage — a key part to this season’s international celebration of the best of the best.
Let’s meet the Top Chef World All Star’s contestants from season 20. Catch up on Top Chef on Food Network Canada. Also available on STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, fuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV and Ignite SmartStream.
Samuel Albert, winner, Top Chef France Season 10
Executive chef and owner of Les Petits Prés in Angers, France, which is based in his family’s home, Top Chef France season 10 winner Samuel Albert cooks every day in the kitchen where he took his first steps. He combines French and Japanese flavours (inspired by his mentor Joël Robouchon) and has worked in restaurants around the world from Switzerland to Shanghai, including a stint as the executive chef for the Belgian Embassy in Tokyo.
Luciana Berry, winner, Top Chef Brazil Season 2
Based in London, Top Chef Brazil season two winner Luciana Berry runs her private catering company, Catering on the Hill, and BerryBartt cooking sauce brand, as well as writing recipes for UK based magazine Bossa Brazil. A former electrical engineering student from Bahia, Brazil, Luciana discovered her love of sharing Brazilian cuisine with her friends and family, and now serves as an Ambassador of Brazilian cuisine in Europe. She often caters for the Brazilian Embassy, Brazilian tourism board, corporate events, and private dinner parties.
Sara Bradley, finalist, Top Chef Season 16: Kentucky
Kentucky-born, Sara Bradley is the chef and proprietor at freight house, a Southern-inspired restaurant and bourbon bar in Paducah. Sara always brings her father’s Appalachian upbringing and her mother’s Jewish heritage into the kitchen. Her 20-year experience includes time in New York and Chicago restaurants and work with James Beard Foundation’s Bootcamp for Policy and Change, before deciding to return to Western Kentucky to open her own restaurant in 2015. She was the runner-up on Top Chef Kentucky Season 16.
Dawn Burrell, finalist, Top Chef: Portland Season 18
Viewers may remember Olympian turned chef Dawn Burrell, who was a finalist on Top Chef Portland in Season 18. Her previous experience with the USA Track & Field team and the 2000 Summer Olympics led her to a love of food and an education at the Art Institute of Houston. From sous chef at Uchiko, in Austin to executive chef at Kulture and a partner/executive role at chef Chris Williams’ Lucille’s Hospitality Group, Burrell is working towards opening her first restaurant in Houston called Late August.
Ali Ghzawi, winner, Top Chef Middle East & North Africa Season 3: Lebanon
Amman-based chef and owner of upscale Middle Eastern restaurant Alee, Ali Ghzawi reflects the culture of Jordan and the Middle East in his cooking. Trained at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Campus of Les Roches, Ali has worked at the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, and the two-star Michelin restaurant Enoteca Paco Pérez. He’s used to the world stage: after winning Top Chef Middle East & North Africa Season 3. Ali has represented Jordan at both culinary and philanthropic events, including humanitarian work with the United Nations by supporting their Sustainable Development Goals.
Tom Goetter, finalist, Top Chef Germany Season 1
Top Chef Germany 2018finalist Tom Goetter trained throughout Germany, first in his hometown of Mainz at Hyatt Hotels, then Steinberger Academy where he obtained his Masters in Culinary Arts before going on to learn from chef Thomas Keller. Currently the executive chef and director of food and beverage for all Scenic Ocean Vessels, Goetter has specialized in international cuisine with experience working at Michelin-starred restaurants, high-end hotels, and ultra-luxury cruise ships.
Nicole Gomes, winner, Top Chef Canada Season 5: All-Stars
Canadian chef, co-founder, and owner at Cluck ‘N’ Cleaver, a chicken joint in Calgary, Nicole Gomes works with her sister Francine and has 28 years of culinary experience around the globe, cooking in kitchens from Paris to a naval base in Sydney. Nicole is a fixture on the competition circuit, including taking home the win on Top Chef Canada All Stars, as well as appearing on Beat Bobby Flay, where she emerged victorious with her chicken parmesan dish.
Victoire Gouloubi, finalist, Top Chef Italy Season 2
From the Republic of the Congo, where she was born, Victoire Gouloubi went to Italy to study law, then moved into cooking in restaurants throughout Europe, including a stint as a sous chef under Marc Farellacci at L’Assassino. A runner up on the second season of Top Chef Italy, Victoire combines European and Congolese flavors and traditions as a private chef in Milan, as well as creating and hosting cooking television programs Il Tocco di Victoire and La Mia Africa for Sky TV.
Charbel Hayek, winner, Top Chef Middle East & North Africa Season 5: Saudi Arabia
Top Chef Middle East & North Africa Season 5 winner Charbel Hayek was born in Beirut and returned there to cook after studying culinary arts at the French School of Excellence. With skills honed at Mélisse restaurant under chef Josiah Citrin, Charbel combines French and Lebanese ingredients into New American cuisine in his current gig as a private chef in Lake Worth, Florida.
Buddha Lo, winner, Top Chef: Houston Season 19
Executive chef of Marky’s Caviar and Huso restaurant in New York City, Buddha Lo was born and raised in Australia where he began his cooking career at age 12 in his parents’ restaurant. The winner of Top Chef Season 19 in Houston, Buddha’s training includes lessons from his Hong-Kong born father, and experience in kitchens throughout Melbourne and London, where he worked at restaurant Gordon Ramsay under chefs Clare Smyth and Matt Abe, and at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.
Dale MacKay, winner, Top Chef Canada Season 1
The winner of the inaugural season of Top Chef Canada, Saskatchewan born Dale MacKay has worked for chefs Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud as well as opening five restaurants with co-worker and business partner, Christopher Cho under Grassroots Restaurant Group. Dale fuses the flavours of Japanese, Korean, and French cuisine and has appeared on Iron Chef Gauntlet, Fire Masters, and Wall of Chefs.
May Phattanant Thongthong, finalist, Top Chef Thailand Season 1
Executive chef and co-partner at MAZE Dining, May Phattanant Thongthong is the runner-up on Season 1 of Top Chef Thailand and two-time winner of Iron Chef Thailand. Born and raised in Chiang Mai, May was a self-taught cook who learned from cookbooks before going on to a 15 year career a professional chef, running Monkey’s Kitchen and My Bistro restaurants, and loves to spotlight the ingredients of Northern Thailand.
Begoña Rodrigo, winner, Top Chef Spain Season 1
Former industrial engineering student at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Rodrigo travelled the world, working at the Amsterdam Marriott Hotel under chef Nick Reade, as well as London-based restaurant Aquarium. Winner of the first season of Top Chef Spain, Begoña is currently the executive chef and owner of La Salita, a one Michelin-starred restaurant in Valencia, where tasting menus show off her global travels.
Gabriel Rodriguez, winner, Top Chef Mexico Season 2
From his start in kitchens as a dishwasher at Pujol, Mexico City-born Gabriel Rodriguez went on to work for chef Eduardo Garcia as a sous chef at Maximo’s Bistrot in Mexico CIty. After taking home the win in the second season of Top Chef Mexico, Gabriel moved to Mazatlán, where he was executive chef at Presidio restaurant. He now shows off his Mexican heritage and flavours as a private chef in Madrid.
Amar Santana, finalist, Top Chef: California Season 13
Executive chef and owner at Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach, and Vaca in Costa Mesa, Amar Santana was born in the Dominican Republic and emigrated to the U.S. at 13. He counts chef Charlie Palmer as one of his mentors, and uses a global pantry in creating his dishes for competitions such as Top Chef Season 13 in California, where he was a runner up, and in Korean Food Battle, finishing as a finalist.
Sylwia Stachyra, winner, Top Chef Poland Season 7
Polish born chef Sylwia Stachyra runs her own cooking school and consultancy called “CookShe.” After training at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill and studying at Bournemouth College, Sylwia travelled for years, learning the basis for her combination of French-Asian fusion and her traditional Polish background. A teacher and independent consultant, she has lectured at the University in Lublin and worked as a private chef after winning Top Chef Poland Season 7.