By Kimra McPherson The Bay Area’s strong food scene has always been a great feeder for Bravo’s cooking competition show Top Chef, and now a wave of contestants have returned to feed us. Three new projects from Top Chef competitors have opened within the past two months, joining an existing crop of alumni-led restaurants on both sides of the Bay. The “Top Chef veteran” tag can nab any project a bit of instant attention, but it also makes it easy to lose track of whether those chefs were actually any good on the show. Did they sail through Quickfire Challenges, narrowly escape elimination, or consistently draw the ire of Padma Lakshmi? Here’s how six of the Top Chefs currently cooking in the Bay Area fared in front of Bravo’s rolling cameras and where you can get a taste of what they're cooking up now:
Casey Thompson The Project: Aveline, Union Square Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: None The Top Chef Result: Runner-up, season 3 (Miami); Fan Favorite, season 3; eliminated in the 5th episode of Season 8 (All-Stars) Reality TV Stereotype: The Hot One Best Known For: Chopping onions really slowly during a Quickfire challenge relay in Miami; later butchering a lamb really quickly during All-Stars, possibly as redemption for the onion thing; “The Casey Curse,” in which her friends and cooking partners consistently lost challenges or got eliminated, while she moved on in the competition — including in Season 5, when she served as sous chef to eventual runner-up Carla Hall.
Jamie Lauren The Project: Hecho to Upper Market Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: Absinthe Brasserie & Bar The Top Chef Result: Eliminated in the 11th episode of season 5 (New York); eliminated in the 6th episode of Season 8 (All-Stars) Reality TV Stereotype: The Foul-Mouthed One Best Known For: Making scallops often enough that fellow contestant Fabio Viviani lamented, “It’s Top Chef, not Top Scallops!”; being the longest-surviving member of LGBT gang “Team Rainbow”; being hopelessly crushed upon by Finnish contestant Stefan Richter.
Jen Biesty The Project: Shakewell , Oakland (with Top Chef: Just Desserts’ Tim Nugent) Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: COCO500 (later at The Sir Francis Drake/Scala’s Bistro) The Top Chef Result: Eliminated in the 7th episode of Season 4 (Chicago) Reality TV Stereotype: The Sent-Home-Too-Soon One Best Known For: Competing alongside/against her then-girlfriend, Zoi Antonitsas; being the last of four San Francisco-based chefs left standing in her season; rocking a sweet faux-hawk.
Yigit Pura The Project: Tout Sweet Patisserie, Union Square Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: Taste Catering The Top Chef Result: Winner and Fan Favorite, Top Chef: Just Desserts Season 1 Reality TV Stereotype: The Cute One Best Known For: Not being the "red hots are for my mommy" guy; getting filmed shirtless a lot; once barely escaping elimination after a disastrous dessert tribute to Madonna.
Ryan Scott The Project: Market & Rye, Potrero Hill and West Portal Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: Myth, Myth Café (later at Mission Beach Café and the pop-up Brunch Drunk Love) The Top Chef Result: Eliminated in the 6th episode of season 4 (Chicago) Reality TV Stereotype Fulfilled: The Self-Proclaimed Metrosexual One Best Known For: Making a multi-course meal including poached pears for a Chicago Bears tailgate challenge; generally seeming to not really know what a tailgate is.
Preeti Mistry The Project: Juhu Beach Club, Oakland Pre-Top Chef Bay Area Gig: Cooking at Google The Top Chef Result: Eliminated in the 3rd episode of Season 6 (Las Vegas) Reality TV Stereotype Fulfilled: The Unknown One Best Known For: Attempting to shuck clams for the first time ever during a relay race and finishing dead last; not much else, unfortunately.