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TOP STRAIGHT TO THE Kristen Kish was a popular winner of Top Chef


in 2012. Here she tells Amelia Levin how everything in her culinary career prepared her for winning


F


irst it was the soup challenge judged by Emeril Lagasse. Then came elimination during Restaurant Wars. But in a


series of fi ve incredible wins in Last Chance Kitchen, chef Kristen Kish made it to the fi nale of Top Chef in 2012 to compete against Brooke Williamson.


She took the title after cooking on stage in front of a live audience and winning three of the four courses, making her only the second woman to win the Bravo! TV show. Red snapper with leeks, Little Gem lettuce, tarragon, uni and shellfi sh nage secured the win.


“This win means absolutely everything to me,” she later said in an interview through Bravo! TV. “It was time for another woman to win, but at the end of the day I just wanted to win regardless.”


Kish believed in herself and that was more than enough. The 31-year-old turned heads – perhaps at fi rst for her model looks, but more so for her razor sharp precision and calm, collected and focused attitude in the kitchen. A protégé of Boston icon Barbara Lynch, Kish served as chef de cuisine of Stir, Lynch’s demo kitchen, and most recently, as chef de cuisine of Menton, Lynch’s fi ne-dining restaurant. She left Menton last year, and is currently working through her next steps. But Lynch, her mentor, is never very far way. “Barbara has created an


empire,” Kish says. “The best thing she taught me is to trust my instincts; to learn how to fi nd my vision and not always follow the lead of someone else. At the end of the day you have to do what Chef


wants you to do, but at Stir I had to step up real fast and take control.” Still, she adds: “Lynch was always there to guide from a distance, so it built up my confi dence. She made me realise that I knew more than I thought I knew.” It was Lynch’s encouragement that enabled her to step away from a dream job such as helming Menton. Born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Kentwood, Michigan, by her adopted family, Kish was a young girl when she discovered her obsession with food and cooking. “I liked the TV programme Great Chefs of the World on the Discovery Channel,” she recalls. “It was amazing to watch chefs from all over the world – places I had never been to – and see them cook in a style I had never seen before. I picked up my fi rst knife aged fi ve.”


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