With the 20th season of the hit reality series Top Chef set to kick off sometime in 2023, it’s worth wondering where the original cast is nowadays. The inaugural season of Top Chef aired in 2006 and pitted 12 supremely talented chefs in a competition to determine ultimate culinary supremacy. Considering 16 years have eclipsed since season 1 concluded, a lot has transpired for the chefs in the interim.
Whether Brian Hill, Tiffany Faison, Candice Kumai, or the ultimate winner Harold Dieterle, the original Top Chef cast has made the most of their professional opportunities since appearing on the show.
Los Angeles resident Ken Lee was the first cast member to be eliminated from the beloved reality cooking show after tasting his sauce with his finger rather than using a spoon (a major faux pas in any kitchen). After going dark on social media following his dismissal, Ken popped up in 2015 when he began hosting a pasta-making masterclass at the New School Cooking Academy in Culver City (per girlsonfood.net).
Like many contestants who enjoy a brief stint on the show before being axed from the competition, it seems that Lee has kept his private life out of the media’s eye. In 2022, his whereabouts are unclear.
Due to her father’s ailing health, Cynthia Sestito decided she no longer wanted to be part of the show and decided to leave Top Chef 1 on her own accord. While Sestito did take some time out afterward, she has since partnered with Grey Goose to create a farm-to-table feast (per WSJ) and launched her own private catering company called CYNFULLFOOD.
In 2020, Sestito also appeared on the Netflix show Cooked With Cannabis, in which she reinforced her expertise in marrying art with food. Sesitito has become famous for being Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s private chef (per Cynfully Canna) and recently opened the year-round bakery/marketplace The Cookery in August 2022 (per Instagram).
Despite being eliminated third from Top Chef 1, Brian Hill has emerged as one of the busiest and most visible reality TV chefs since 2006. After appearing on Bar Rescue and Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, Hill opened Brian Hill’s Comfort Kitchen in Washington, DC in 2018 (per The Washingtonian).
While the Washington location has since closed, Hill opened another restaurant in Miami but was forced to close down after four days due to COVID-19 concerns (per Vice). In 2022, Hill continues to promote his private catering company on Instagram and TikTok where he’s also become an outspoken advocate for social justice.
Although Candice Kumai lasted just 4 weeks on the long-running reality TV show before losing an elimination challenge to Tiffany Faison, she has capitalized on her celebrity more than most. Author of six wellness cookbooks since 2009, Candice also became a writer and director for the first time in 2021 by adapting her sixth book, Kintsugi Wellness, into a 3-part documentary series.
Aside from becoming an author and writer/director since her time on the show, Kumai has recently appeared on an episode of Selena + Chef on HBO Max as well as the documentary Healthy Long Life in 2020. Kumai also hosts the podcast Wabi Sabi, which just released its 93rd episode on September 26, 2022.
Despite winning the week 3 competition, Los Angeles-based chef Lisa Parks was eliminated from Top Chef 1 two weeks later after failing to create a winning Japanese street food dish along with her partner Harold. In the end, the two were bested by Dave and Tiffany and their Moroccan-inspired Cubano.
Much like Ken Lee, Lisa has disappeared from limelight, although she did co-author a book entitled If You Wanna Get A Man, Learn How To Cook Book that was published in 2012 under her new name, Lisa Pilar.
New York-based chef Andrea Beaman finished in 7th place on Top Chef 1 and since left the restaurant scene behind to launch her own website AndreaBeaman.com. Here she practices and preaches the motto “Life is Delicious” as a holistic life coach and offers training courses that range from free to masterclass.
Beaman has written three wellness books since 2011, with her most recent, Happy Healthy Thyroid, published in 2015. In the summer of 2022, Beaman celebrated 10 years with her life partner Pablo Garcia (per Instagram).
Sixth-place finisher Miguel Morales became a Top Chef fan-favorite for his lovable personality and silly sense of humor. Aside from retaining his post as a chef at the Banquet Tournant Mandarian Oriental Hotel since 2004, Morales began working as the Sous Chef for the Hard Rock Hotel in New York in March 2022 (per his LinkedIn account).
A proud father in 2022 as well, Miguel has been spending quality time attending NFL games, visiting restaurants, and giving fans on Instagram candid behind-the-scenes glimpses into his personal and professional life.
Stephen Aspirino gained a rep for being a Top Chef villain for his immodesty and insolence during the show’s first season. The 5th-place finisher launched SA Hospitality Enterprises in 2007, a restaurant consulting business he continues to operate in 2022.
Aspirino has branched the company from New York to Palm Beach, Florida, where he recently launched the AguaGrille restaurant, which he recently promoted on PB Illustrated (via Instagram). While he isn’t active on his own social media, fans can find out what else Aspirino has been up to on his official website.
Lee Anne Wong
After finishing in 4th place, Lee Anne Wong has remained a popular staple on The Food Network and Cooking Channel as a guest judge and panelist on various TV shows. She has even worked as a culinary supervising producer on Top Chef, Rocco’s Dinner Party, and others.
In addition to logging her first acting credit for the Hallmark TV movie Groundswell in 2022, Lee Anne currently works as the Executive Chef for Koko Head Cafe and Papa’aina at the Pioneer Inn in Hawaii (per her Instagram bio).
Dave Martin made a valiant run on Top Chef 1 en route to a third-place finish. Since competing in 2006, he’s appeared on the ultimate cooking competition show Chopped twice from 2017 to 2020.
However, his bread and butter is culinary consultation, a venture that has seen Martin launch New York eateries Chama Mama and Dalup in 2019 with plans for new Mexican restaurants in Texas and Florida in the future (per chefdavemartin.com). In April 2022, Martin published The Tequila Diet, a spirit guide tailored for Mexican food that he is currently promoting on Instagram.
Top Chef 1 runner-up Tiffani Faison has become a bona fide rock star chef since her time on the show. Beyond becoming a mainstay judge on Chopped, Faison recently won Food Network’s Tournament of Champions in 2022 before going on to star as a Team Captain in Beachside Brawl later in the year.
Although Faison was forced to closer her beloved Tiger Mama restaurant in 2021, she rebounded by opening Tenderoni’s, Dive Bar, and Bubble Bath in downtown Boston in 2022 through her company Big Heart Hospitality. (per Boston.com).
Top Chef‘s inaugural winner Harold Dieterle took the competition by storm in 2006, winning challenges in weeks 1 and 11 to help his cause. Nowadays, Harold heads HD Hospitality, a culinary consulting that helped open the Mediterranean restaurant Ten Hope in Brooklyn in 2019.
When Harold isn’t promoting his book Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook (2014) on Instagram, he can be found spending quality time fishing and eating with his son in 2022. As seen above, Harold’s son caught his first striper four weeks ago in Mattituck, New York. Fans can learn more about Harold at his official website.