This season's venue will be one of America's top foodie cities - New Orleans. Gail Simmons and Hugh Acheson will return with New Orleans' own Emeril Lagasse as judges. The contestants will be tasked with serving up food for top entertainers, culinary stars and celebrity guest judges including: Jon Favreau, Lea Michele, Anthony Mackie, Questlove, Leah Chase, Paul Prudhomme, Jacques Pepin, David Chang, John Besh, and Eddie Huang as well as local legends Kermit Ruffins and Dr. John.
1. Benedetto Bartolotta
HOMETOWN: Astoria, New York - currently resides in Manhattan, New York
PROFESSION: Chef/owner of Indulge by Bene Catering & Events
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Simple apple crumble tart with a talegio cheese gelato
A star graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Benedetto Bartolotta has studied extensively in Europe and Asia where he honed his skill and brought back fresh and innovative ideas. Bene has worked as the Executive Chef for acclaimed New York City restaurants such as San Domenico NY, Cipriani, and Osteria del Circo. He most recently appeared alongside Chef Odette Fada as her Sous Chef on Bravo’s “Battle of the Sous Chefs,” as part of “Top Chef Masters” culinary competition. His latest creation is Indulge by Bene, a premier catering and event planning company in New York City. Bene has planned his signature company to appeal to clients who seek a unique food experience in a setting of their choice. Indulge by Bene's fine-dining approach to catering presents clients with seasonally inspired menus, prepared to perfection, designed and tailored just for you. If he could have a last meal with anyone, it would be a Kobe beef burger with bacon and cheese, onion rings and a chocolate peanut butter milk shake with former President George Bush.
2. Ramon Bojorquez
HOMETOWN: Rio Rico, Arizona - currently resides in San Diego, California
PROFESSION: Sous Chef, Nine-Ten
CULINARY EDUCATION: Scottsdale Culinary school
FAVORITE FOOD: Thai and Mexican
Ramon Bojorquez is the Sous Chef at Nine-Ten, an upscale farm to table restaurant in downtown La Jolla, California. Ramon is of Mexican descent, born in Rio Rico, Arizona, and was professionally trained at the Scottsdale Culinary School. He grew up watching his grandfather cook, and carries a considerable amount of Mexican, Spanish, and Thai influence in his cuisine. He has traveled the world, from serving as a stage in Spain to fighting Muy Thai professionally in Thailand. Ramon loves bold and spicy flavors- simple yet powerful. He believes “the combination of peppers, cilantro, and lime can be used in almost any dish.” Above all, fresh, seasonal products stand as the cornerstone of Ramon’s cooking.
3. Janine Booth
HOMETOWN: Perth, Australia - currently resides in New York City, New York
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine
CULINARY EDUCATION: Le Cordon Bleu, Miami
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Pumpkin scones with maple mascarpone.
Growing up in Australia, Janine was surrounded by unique flavors from all over the world which inspired her to embark on a culinary journey throughout Europe, Asia and beyond. Janine's travels lead her to Miami, Florida, where she studied Culinary Arts at Le Cordon Bleu and worked in restaurants alongside former “Top Chef” Alum Chef Jeff McInnis, exploring Southern American, Thai, Vietnamese and Modern American cuisines. Janine is currently living in New York City where she is working on her own restaurant, which is scheduled to open late 2013. When Janine is not sweating it out in the kitchen, she is spending time with her shih-tzu, traveling, and making memories with friends and family.
4. Shirley Chung
HOMETOWN: Beijing China, and Fremont, Calif. – currently resides in Las Vegas, Nev.
PROFESSION: Former executive chef of China Poblano
CULINARY EDUCATION: Culinary Art Degree, California Culinary Academy
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Apple Tarte Tatin with Crème Fraiche
As former Executive Chef for China Poblano by Jose Andres, and under her guidance, the restaurant was nominated for James Beard Award’s prestigious “Best New Restaurant” in 2011. Born and raised in Beijing China, Shirley came to America for a college education. She worked in Silicon Valley for a few years after college but decided to follow her passion for food – and enrolled in culinary school. She trained in classic French and Italian cuisine, and went on to work and open restaurants for culinary superstars Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy and Mario Batali. Through her work at China Poblano, she fell in love with Mexican cuisine and learned more about her own heritage - Chinese cuisine. Shirley loves to travel and studies the local cultures through regional food. Her style of cooking is “Cuisine with no boarders” - and she draws inspiration from all of her travels.
5. Stephanie Cmar
HOMETOWN: Boston, Massachusetts
PROFESSION: Sous Chef, No.9 Park
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.A. Culinary Arts, B.A. Food Service Management, Johnson & Wales
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Apple cobbler with an equal size scoop of vanilla ice cream
Always passionate about cooking, Stephanie Cmar began working in the food industry when she was 15 years old at the Muffin Shop in Marblehead, MA. It ignited her thirst for food and provided the direction for her life. In 2007, Stephanie graduated from Johnson & Wales University and returned to Boston to begin her career at Top of the Hub. She continued developing her talent by working as sous chef at Ivy Restaurant. Her next step was working with Barbara Lynch Gruppo at B&G Oysters in 2009 as line cook where she was quickly promoted to sous chef and from there, she moved over to Stir. Most recently, Stephanie has continued to further her fine dining skills at No. 9 Park. The fast paced, creative environment continues to inspire her and drives her passion for food.
6. Nina Compton
HOMETOWN: Saint Lucia - currently resides in Miami, Florida
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine, Scarpetta Miami, Fontainebleau hotel
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Butternut squash raviolini, braised veal cheeks and broccoli rabe pesto
A native of St. Lucia, Nina Compton has trained in French, Caribbean and Italian kitchens. She has worked under renowned Chef Daniel Boulud and now lives in Miami where she is the Chef de Cuisine for acclaimed chef Scott Conant. A self-proclaimed “gnocchi Queen,” Nina always keeps Maldon salt, good olive oil, lemon, calabrese chilies, and either pancetta or guanciale on hand. Nina strongly believes one should enjoy the moment whenever they are cooking.
7. Aaron Cuschieri
HOMETOWN: Livonia, Michigan
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Slurping Turtle; Chicago, Illinois CULINARY EDUCATION: International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Michigan
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL RECIPES: Butternut squash agnolotti with brown butter, toasted walnuts and sage
Chef Aaron Cuschieri has worked in some of the top kitchens in the country including, Assaggi Bistro in his home state of Michigan, to the world-renowned Alinea in Chicago. Ultimately, Aaron earned a position at Takashi Restaurant where he met his most influential mentor, Takashi Yagihashi. Under Takashi’s direction, Aaron further developed his simple and fresh cooking philosophy, learning the importance of upholding the integrity of ingredients and always looking for the right balance of texture and flavor. Recognizing his skills, Chef Takashi tapped Aaron to oversee his Japanese comfort food concept, Slurping Turtle, as Executive Chef. Outside of the kitchen, Aaron spends his time playing guitar and drums, reading the latest cookbook and taking advantage of Chicago’s emerging culinary scene.
8. Nicholas Elmi
HOMETOWN: West Newbury Massachusetts - currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PROFESSION: Executive Chef
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Pickled and Preserved Blueberries with Yeast and Sorel Ice Cream
Chef Nicholas Elmi has worked at some of the top rated French restaurants on the east coast, including Guy Savoy (Paris), Le Bec Fin, Union Pacific, Oceana and Lutece. Nicholas has built a solid French repertoire that is constantly undated with influences from his travels as well as his upbringing in New England. In the fall of 2013, Nicholas plans on opening his own restaurant and business in Philadelphia, the city he has called home for 13 years.
9. Carlos Gaytan
HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois
PROFESSION: Executive Chef / Owner of Mexique; Chicago, Illinois
CULINARY EDUCATION: Self Taught
Chef Carlos Gaytan arrived in Chicago in early 1991, quickly working his way up from pantry cook to line cook at Sheraton North Shore Hotel. After earning a position as Chef Garde Manger, Carlos discovered his creative ability to carve on ice, fruit and vegetables, winning several awards for his talent. In 1996, Carlos earned a position as Chef Garde Manger at the Union League Club of Chicago, ranked as the best private club in the nation. In April of 2004 Carlos became the Chef de Cuisine at Bistrot Margot where he worked with renowned French Chef Dominique Tougne and participated in such events as the Confrerie de la Chaide de Rotisseurs, the Moet and Chandon Brunch and the Annual Flora Springs Dinner Auction in Napa Valley. In May of 2008, Carlos opened his own restaurant - Mexique on Chicago Avenue in Chicago. With great creativity, love and dedication he applies his knowledge of French cooking techniques and ingredients to his roots of traditional Mexican cuisine, creating a revolution of Mexican gastronomy. Mexique has received much recognition since its opening, including one of Chicago Magazine’s top new restaurants of 2009, best restaurant of 2010 and received its first star in the Michelin Guide in 2013. Most recently Carlos was awarded “Chef of the Year 2011,” by the American Culinary Federation.
10. Brian Huskey
HOMETOWN: Pasadena, California - currently resides in Los Angeles, California
PROFESSION: Saucier, Paiche; Los Angeles, California
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, California Culinary Academy
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Warm nutella brioche bread pudding with “drunken” banana ice cream
Chef Brian Huskey is a native of Pasadena, California. After attending UCLA, where he had his first job as a short order cook, Brian moved to San Francisco to get his formal culinary education at CCA. After CCA, Brian went on a culinary journey, traveling to places as far as the Caribbean but eventually landing back in Los Angeles. For the past two and half years, Brian has been working directly with Chef Ricardo Zarate in opening his three restaurants: Picca, Mochica, and Paiche. Throughout this process, Brian has been able to travel and learn how to incorporate Asian, French, Peruvian, and Californian influences into his food.