Meet the ‘Top Chef’ contestants with Atlanta ties
Bravo’s “Top Chef” has become something of a cable television juggernaut since it launched in 2006, spawning several spinoffs and all-star editions. Atlanta has long represented as part of the franchise, producing several winners and memorable characters, several of whom have gone on to make their marks on Atlanta and other cities.
In advance of the debut of Season 14, which takes place in Charleston, S.C., get to to know the “Top Chef” chefs with Atlanta ties:
Jamie Lynch: Season 14, Charleston
Lynch is a partner and executive chef at 5Church, which opened in Midtown over the summer. Lynch currently divides his time between 5Church’s three locations in Charleston, Charlotte, and Atlanta, which was reviewed by AJC dining critic Ligaya Figures in September.
A graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont, Lynch trained under Michael Mina at Aqua in San Francisco and Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini and Charlie Palmer in New York City.
He was named Charlotte Magazine’s Best Chef in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Wesley True / Photo by: Rodney Hofirstname.lastname@example.org
Wesley True: Season 13, California
A native of Mobile, Ala., and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, True has worked at such celebrated New York kitchens as Danube, Bouley and Aquavit. He was nominated for a James Beard Award in the Best Chef: South category in 2011 and 2012.
Ron Eyester is now executive chef at Nancy G’s in Sandy Springs.
Ron Eyester: Season 12, Boston
Eyester was cut on episode three, but there was more drama to come for the chef once he returned to Atlanta.
Anthony Gray: Season 10, Seattle
The former executive chef at Southern Art in Buckhead, Gray was eliminated in the qualifying round of Season 10.
The Macon native is currently the executive chef at Bacon Bros. Public House in South Carolina.
Janine Falvo: Season 9, Texas
Falvo, previously the executive chef at the now-closed Briza in Midtown, was eliminated in the final qualifying round in Season 9 in Texas.
She now serves as the executive chef at Renaissance Long Beach in California.
Tracey Bloom: Season 7, Washington D.C.
Bloom, formerly the executive chef at Table 1280 in Midtown, came in 15th on Season 7. After she was eliminated, Bloom characterized the judges’ critique as harsh but fair.
Before Table 1280, she worked as the pastry chef at Sia’s Restaurant in Duluth and for the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group.
She now serves as the personal chef for former “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kim Zociak-Biermann and her husband, former Atlanta Falcon Kroy Biermann, and focuses on creating allergy-free and gluten-free menus.
Chef Hector Santiago. Credit: CONTRIBUTED
Hector Santiago: Season 6, Las Vegas
One of three Atlanta contestants on Season 6, Santiago came in 13th. His shocking early exit from the show continues to puzzle his many local fans.
He previously owned Pura Vida in Virginia Highland and was the executive chef at Abbatoir in the West End. He opened El Super Pan in Ponce City Market in 2015.
Chef Kevin Gillespie at Revival Restaurant. Photo Credit- Mia Yakel.
Kevin Gillespie: Season 6, Las Vegas
Gillespie, former chef and partner of Woodfire Grill, came in third place in Season 6. He was voted “Fan Favorite,” no doubt owing to his southern charm and advocacy of sustainable dining.
He opened the highly regarded restaurants Gunshow in Glenwood Park in 2013 and Revival in 2015 (along with Communion beer garden), and is set to open Gamechanger at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium in 2017. He was a 2015 James Beard Foundation finalist for Best Chef: Southeast and in 2013 for his cookbook “Fire In My Belly.”
Eli Kirshtein: Season 6, Las Vegas
Formerly of the now-closed Eno, Kirshtein was good enough to finish fifth in the competition.
The Atlanta native worked at Buckhead Diner under Kevin Rathbun and at one Midtown Kitchen under former “Top Chef” contestant Richard Blais.
He opened The Luminary in Krog Street Market in 2014.
Richard Blais / HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Richard Blais: Season 4, Chicago and All-Stars, Season 8
Arguably the most successful “Top Chef” alum out of Atlanta, Blais was the third runner up on Season 4 in Chicago and the winner of All-Stars Season 8.
The owner of two Flip Burger Boutique locations (one in Virginia Highland was previously the HD1 hot dog spot) and the now-shuttered Spence in Midtown opened Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, and now lives in southern California.
He has served as a guest judge on “Master Chef”, “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Top Chef Canada” and hosted “Burger Lab,” “Blais Off” and “Cook Your A$$ Off.”
Nimma Osman: Season 4, Chicago
Osman didn’t represent Atlanta quite as well as Richard Blais in Season 4 (Chicago) — she got cut after the first episode.
A former line chef at the now-closed Repast, Osman is now a sous chef at Sun In My Belly in Kirkwood.
Heather Hurlburt: Top Chef – Desserts
The former executive pastry chef at the Cherokee Town and Country Club was a favorite from the first episode, but she succumbed to physical and emotional exhaustion and became the seventh person eliminated.
She now owns and operates her own Atlanta dessert company, HH Desserts.
Read The A List: The faces, places, dishes and drinks defining the Atlanta dining scene right now
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