As Marcel Vigneron opened Lemon Grove in Hollywood last week, Eater readers might recall that the rooftop restaurant was previously attached to Sam Talbot, another Top Chef alum. This Top Chef shuffle goes to show how the Bravo programming continues to influence Los Angeles’s dining scene, even after 19 seasons.
The cooking competition show, which debuted in 2005, yields heavy star-making material that some chefs manage to maneuver into the restaurant sphere, whether opening a brick-and-mortar, penning a cookbook, or maintaining a steady media presence. Here’s a look at what a group of LA-based Top Chef alums are up to in 2022.
LA-native Brooke Williamson and Season 14 winner operates Playa Provisions with her husband and co-chef Nick Roberts. She made an appearance as judge on Top Chef Season 19. In late-2020, Williamson closed her restaurants Hudson House in Redondo Beach and the Tripel in Playa Del Rey due to COVID-19.
Before Top Chef Season 2 winner Ilan Hall opened up Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market in 2015, he ran the Gorbals in Downtown from 2009 to 2014. He also co-hosted Esquire’s show Knife Fight.
Mei Lin opened the highly acclaimed but now-closed Nightshade in 2018, four years after winning Top Chef Season 12. The Arts District restaurant was named Eater LA’s Best New Restaurant in 2019, as well as Eater’s Best Restaurants in America. Food & Wine and GQ bestowed Lin with best new restaurant honors, too. Lin opened Silver Lake’s daytime fried chicken sandwich joint Daybird in early 2021.
The Voltaggio brothers made quite a splash on Top Chef Season 6 when the younger sibling, Michael, bested his older brother, Bryan, in the finals. Michael opened and closed three LA restaurants since winning the top prize: Ink, which operated from 2011 to 2017; Ink Sack on Melrose (2011 to 2018); and Ink Well (2017 to 2018). Michael’s LAX outlet of Ink Sack remains open. Michael and Bryan co-owned the now-closed Strfsh.
LA-native Nyesha Arrington opened two restaurants in Los Angeles since appearing on Season 9: Leona in Venice and Native in Santa Monica. Native closed in 2019, while Arrington left Leona the same year. Arrington is currently a mentor on the Fox cooking competition show Next Level Chef, with host Gordon Ramsay, along with co-mentor and Top Chef alum Richard Blais. Arrington, whom Eater profiled in 2020, will open Native at the Delta terminal inside LAX this fall.
Note: Eater has a video series, Plateworthy, hosted and produced by Nyesha Arrington.
Season 4 runner-up Richard Blais worked with Crack Shack CEO Michael Rosen to open two locations of the fast-casual fried chicken concept in Century City and Pasadena, both of which closed in 2021.
Vigneron opened Lemon Grove this month at a members-only club in Hollywood. The Top Chef Season 2 runner-up’s LA tenure includes the restaurants Wolf and Tacos Lobos, which both closed in 2019 for Vigneron to focus on catering.
Chicago-based chef Stephanie Izard, the first woman to win Top Chef, took the title in Season 4. In Los Angeles, she opened Girl & The Goat in 2021 and Cabra at the Hoxton Hotel in January.
Ospi and Jame Enoteca owner and chef Jackson Kalb competed in Season 19 of Top Chef. During the competition, the chef famously lost his sense of smell after contracting COVID-19. Before competing on Top Chef, the native Angeleno opened the acclaimed Jame Enoteca in El Segundo in 2018 and Ospi in 2020; Kalb is also a partner of Wake & Late. The chef is preparing to open Gemma di Mare in Brentwood later this year.