Jennifer Carroll is competing on season 17 of the reality TV show Top Chef All-Stars. The show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.
Carroll made her Top Chef debut in 2009 in Las Vegas and finished in fourth place. She returned for an all-star edition during season eight but was eliminated early in the competition.
Carroll has said she approached the competition years ago with a very “aggressive attitude. She told Bravo that this time around, she plans to exhibit a much calmer demeanor.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Jennifer Carroll & Fiance Billy Riddle Run a Mediterranean-Style Restaurant Called Spice Finch In Philadelphia
Jennifer Carroll and her fiance, Billy Riddle, opened their Philadelphia restaurant Spice Finch in July 2018. They named the establishment after a type of Mediterranean bird that eats the spices they chose to incorporate into their recipes.
Carroll explained to Chestnut Hill Local in 2018, “We have created a modern Mediterranean menu with a lot of spices and herbs incorporated into each dish. The menu lends itself to a vegetarian palate, and it’s based on the way Billy and I eat at home. These are spices we are familiar with and use in our day-to-day cooking.”
Spice Finch was identified as one of the top 10 best new restaurants in 2018 as part of USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Travel Awards.
Top Chef All-Stars premiered amid the national coronavirus outbreak, which has forced restaurants to close due to the risk of contagion. Carroll included this message on Spice Finch’s website, calling for greater action to protect restaurant owners and workers:
“In our fight to survive we have made the decision to close Spice Finch until further notice. As restaurateurs, hoteliers, chefs, bartenders, managers, servers, and patrons, we call upon the federal government to immediately create and implement a comprehensive bailout plan to help independent restaurants and hotels during this crisis. At the moment, the hospitality industry is the largest segment of the economy directly affected by state and federal government measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 by ceasing normal hospitality operations. Without immediate financial assistance, America’s hospitality workers will endure irreparable damage, wide-scale closures, and the potential unemployment of millions.”
2. Carroll’s Mentor Was Renowned French Chef Eric Ripert, Who Helped Prepare Her For Top Chef
Jennifer Carroll received years of training from renowned celebrity chef Eric Ripert, who has been awarded 3 Michelin stars during his career. Carroll applied to work at his seafood restaurant Le Bernardin in midtown Manhattan in 2003.
Years later, Carroll recalled going in for that first interview. “I wanted to learn from the best and work at the best place possible… I walked in off the street and dropped my résumé off. They called me to come in for a stage. I was so nervous and excited at the same time. It’s very intimidating walking into that kitchen. There are 40 cooks, and everyone is working and moving.” She told Open Table, “When Eric came in and I got to meet him, I totally froze. It was something I was looking forward to for so many years. I can’t even put into words how much that day and that meeting changed my life.”
Ripert eventually promoted Carroll to sous chef. She stayed at Le Bernardin for five years before her mentor gave her a major opportunity located back in her native Philadelphia. Ripert had decided to open an establishment called 10 Arts Bistro and asked Carroll to lead it. Carroll accepted and remained at 10 Arts Bistro until 2011.
Ripert also helped to prep Carroll before she appeared on Top Chef the first time. He told Open Table, “Usually, I do not recommend for many of our cooks to go on Top Chef because it can be a very draining process… However, I was very confident with Jennifer,” Ripert said. “I encouraged her, coached her, and reminded her that the show is not a real-life version of the kitchen – it’s just entertainment. I reminded her to not let her ego get in the way.”
Carroll’s resume also includes time spent working with chef Marcus Samuelsson in Harlem. In 2015, she moved to Washington, D.C. to build the restaurant Requin Brasserie alongside her fellow Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella. She abruptly ended the partnership in 2017. Isabella filed for bankruptcy the following year.
3. Carroll Launched Her Own Catering Company In 2011 & Splits Her Time Between Philadelphia & Washington, D.C. to Run It
Jennifer Carroll’s longest-running project is her catering company. She launched Carroll Couture Cuisine in 2011 in Philadelphia and continued to grow it while she was living in Washington, D.C.
Due to the company’s success in the nation’s capital, Carroll now splits her time between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. She told D.C. Eater in 2018 that her business began to perform better after ending her partnership with Mike Isabella.
In addition to catering weddings, private dinners, and corporate events, the company also provides classes and consulting services. Carroll has “traveled worldwide to create delicious experiences for almost a decade,” CNBC reported in 2018.
4. Jennifer Carroll Met Her Fiance, Billy Riddle, When He Came to Eat At Her Philadelphia Restaurant
Jennifer Carroll’s longtime partner, Billy Riddle, is also a professional chef. They met in 2008 while she was the top chef at 10 Arts Bistro in Philadelphia. She told the Chestnut Hill Local, “Billy came in to eat with one of my sous chefs, and I was working.”
Riddle popped the question during the Christmas holiday in 2015. Carroll posted a photo on Instagram with the simple caption, “So this happened,” while holding up her hand to show the ring.
Ahead of the premiere of Top Chef All-Stars, Carroll said Riddle was “at home cheering for me, hoping I do well and we win the money.” The couple does not have children, but Carroll does have “fur babies.” Carroll told Bravo she has five rabbits named Chewy, Larry, Lil’ Joanie, Pickle, and Turkey.
5. Jennifer Carroll Studied Law & Criminal Justice In College
Jennifer Carroll is a Philadelphia native. She and her two sisters attended Mount St. Joseph Academy, where Carroll played soccer and lacrosse.
Carroll intended to pursue a career as a lawyer when she began her college education. She majored in pre-law studies at Catholic University, according to her LinkedIn page. She transferred to Saint Joseph’s University and studied criminal justice and political science there.
But in 1995, Carroll decided to switch her focus and enrolled at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. Her earlier culinary career included time spent working in her hometown of Philadelphia and in San Francisco.
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