Tonight was the season 16 finale of Top Chef, and Kelsey Barnard Clark walked away the winner.
As the winner, Kelsey will walk away with $125,000 and a feature in Food & Wine Magazine. She will also be given the opportunity to show off her skills at the annual Food & Wine Classic culinary event held in Aspen, Colorado.
After fourteen weeks of competition, the three chefs entered the arena to face off in one final contest. Last week, Tom noted it had been a “fantastic” season, and he was excited to see where this evening’s finale led.
The final three competitors tonight were Sara Bradley, Kelsey Barnard Clark, and Eric Adjepong. As Eater notes, each of the three chefs came into the competition with their own distinct style. Eric, for one, did his best to incorporate West African flavors into his dishes, while Sarah Bradley made food inspired by her Southern and Jewish roots. Kelsey, lastly, impressed the judges with some Gulf state recipes.
In an interview with the contestants ahead of Thursday’s finale, Eric was asked what it was like watching himself on TV this season. He said, “A little surreal. There are some cringe-worthy moments, but overall I’m happy with the way everything was portrayed. It’s nuts, though, to think how they do such a great job to cut up a day that could last almost 17 or 18 hours into like 45 minutes.”
Asked if cooking dishes that reflect her heritage was a strategy, or just how she likes to cook, Kelsey responded, “I would say both. For me it was a strategy I had coming in. You don’t see people win saying, “Oh, I’m going to cook this thing today” with no passion behind it. I think with anything in life, you have to be passionate to make it the best. Yes, it was a strategy, but honestly, that is the food that I cook every day. I’m in the deep South and I own a Southern restaurant. So if I didn’t cook that, what would I do?”
And what do we know about each of these three chefs individually?
Kelsey Barnard Clark is a caterer and the owner and executive chef of KBC restaurant in Dothan. According to the Dothan Eagle, “Her Southern and French fusion café is a lunchtime favorite downtown with a menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches.”
In a February interview, Clark shared, “The only game plan I had going into ‘Top Chef’ in general was I’m going to cook my food and I’m going to be myself… If I win, I’m going to win with what I do.”
Eric, meanwhile, is the chef and owner of Pinch & Plate in Washington, DC. And Sarah Bradley is the chef and owner of Freight House, a restaurant in Kentucky.