CIA Grads Dominate Top Chef—14 Finalists (and 6 Winners) in 16 Seasons
It’s a run of success any team would be happy to celebrate…
Sixteen Seasons, six champions, eight runners-up. That’s the tally for Culinary Institute of America graduates after Kelsey Barnard Clark took the top spot in the latest edition of Bravo’s mega-popular Top Chef. And for those of you keeping score at home, that’s the most of any culinary college on the Top Chef winners list!
Who Are These Top Chefs, and Where Are They Now?
Here’s the rundown of the CIA’s victorious half-dozen:
- Harold Dieterle (Season 1)—President, HD Hospitality, New York City
- Ilan Hall (Season 2)—Culinary Wingman, Dog Haus
- Hung Huynh (Season 3)—Executive Chef and Partner, Mamaling Asian Street Food, Orlando, FL
- Richard Blais (Season 8)—Chef, Consultant, and Owner, Trail Blais
- Nicholas Elmi (Season 11)—Chef and Owner, Laurel Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA
- Kelsey Barnard Clark (Season 16)—Executive Chef and Owner, KBC, Dothan, AL
The newest Top Chef winner from the CIA had a simple philosophy when preparing for her turn in the spotlight. “The only game plan I had was, I’m going to cook my food and I’m going to be myself,” Chef Clark says. “If I win, I’m going to win with what I do. I’m not going to try and be some frou-frou person that I’m not.”
Chef Elmi says his time at the CIA helped him figure out what kind of person—and professional—he was. “The CIA gives you a great sense of purpose,” he explains. “It gave me a sense of who I am, what it takes to get along in this industry.”
After his Top Chef win, Chef Huynh credited much of his success on the show to the quality education he received.
“The CIA prepared me with the fundamentals of cooking, the basic skills I needed to win—the strong foundation, the perfect knife cuts, the perfect braising or sautéing techniques,” Chef Huynh, Season 3 winner, says. “What you need to serve great food is definitely great techniques.”
Great food has been a regular staple for CIA grads on Top Chef. In addition to the six overall winners, eight more were finalists on the show—Marcel Vigneron (Season 2), Chef Blais (Season 4, before coming back to win it all four seasons later), Bryan Voltaggio (6), Ed Cotton and Angelo Sosa (co-runners-up, Season 7), Nina Compton (11), Gregory Gourdet (12), and Amar Santana (13).
Plus, the show’s viewers have tabbed three grads as Top Chef “Fan Favorites”—Nina Compton in Season 11, Fatima Ali in Season 15, and Chef Clark in the most recent competition, giving her a clean sweep of the show’s two coveted prizes.
It all adds up to an unparalleled level of success by these Top Chef CIA graduates who were clearly at the Top of their game!