From Winner To Host, Kristen Kish Continues To Inspire On ‘Top Chef’

The TV personality, author and restaurateur shares the impact the show has had on her professionally and personally, and shares a recipe that embodies her rich culinary journey.

It’s hard to believe that Bravo’s hit cooking competition, Top Chef, is entering its 21st season. For the show’s new host, Kristen Kish, it’s a full-circle moment. Kish became the first woman of color to win Top Chef during season 10 and is now replacing longtime host, Padma Lakshmi, when the show premieres on March 20. 

“What I am looking forward to when it premieres is nothing really to do with me, but just being a viewer,” Kish tells Sweet July. “Having been on the other side [as a contestant], there is so much that happens when you’re not in front of the judges: the preparation, the brainstorming. I’m looking forward to seeing it all—the entire picture.”

Season 21 was filmed in Wisconsin, which was also special to Kish as a fellow Midwesterner. She grew up in Michigan after being adopted from Seoul, South Korea at four months old. 

“I had this disconnect for a very long time about understanding who I am and trying to figure out where I fit into this world,” says Kish, who credits Top Chef with helping her embrace her identity. “When I look back, and I have this conversation a lot [of] ‘did you ever feel like an outsider or othered?’ and I did, but I can’t say that it was because I was Asian, Korean or an adoptee. It was largely because I knew that I was gay. Top Chef did something really wonderful for me, which was show me all the things that I am, especially from other peoples’ eyes.”

A slew of opportunities—in addition to important revelations—came Kish’s way after taking home the top prize more than a decade ago. She published a cookbook, Kristen Kish Cooking Recipes and Techniques, opened her own restaurant, Arlo Grey, in Austin, and appeared as a judge on Top Chef. She’s also traveled the world hosting a variety of shows including National Geographic’s Restaurants At the End of the World, Netflix’s Iron Chef: Quest for An Iron Legend, and Travel Channel’s 36 Hours.

Kristen Kish as the host of Top Chef. Photo: Stephanie Diani

Since then, Kish says she continues to run into people from all walks of life that tell her about the influence she’s had on them. “Clearly I’m Asian and a woman in the kitchen,” says Kish. “When I also came out [after the show] and people learned I was adopted, all these different people, strangers, [welcomed me into] their communities and were really proud of me. And I don’t know if I ever thought I belonged in any of those [communities] until Top Chef.”

In recent years, she’s also looked for ways to connect more with her Korean heritage after visiting Seoul in 2022, the first time she returned since being adopted. In December, she launched Kish Apéritif in partnership with Yobo, an American-made soju founded by Korean American entrepreneur, Carolyn Kim.

Kish doesn’t take all these experiences lightly. “I look at it with a deep responsibility and I understand the impact of what that actually means: to be represented in a very public way on screen,” says Kish.

With Sweet July, Kish shares a recipe that’s adapted from her cookbook. It marries two nostalgic dishes from her childhood in the Midwest, and showcases the skills obtained along her rich culinary journey. The vinaigrette (based off her book’s charred green beans recipe) reminds Kish of the large jars of pickled three bean salad her mother used to buy, while the chickpea fried broccoli “was inspired off when we would get chicken fingers as a kid and I would dip them in broccoli cheddar soup,” explains Kish. “I decided to grow it up a little bit.”

Get Kish’s chickpea fried broccoli recipe below!

Plus: Looking for the perfect wine to pair with this dish?  Sweet Julys wine consultant Julia Coney recommends Blaufränkisch. Coney says, “Traditionally from Austria, this grape variety thrives in various places around the world. It is nuanced and can be light-bodied in style or bold. From the Finger Lakes region in New York, you can find various styles and works with intense flavor of the broccoli and the subtlety of the chickpeas. For fun, look for sparkling styles as a contrast to the still wine style.”


Kristen Kish's Chickpea Fried Broccoli

From Kristen Kish Cooking Recipes and Techniques by Kristen Kish with Meredith Erickson. Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Kristin Teig. Reprinted by permission of Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.


For the Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp chopped garlic

1 tbsp chopped oregano

3 tsp chopped thyme

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

salt and pepper to taste

For the Mornay

3 tbsp unsalted butter

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups whole milk – room temp

2 ounces grated Gruyere cheese

2 ounces Emmental cheese

Salt to taste

For the Broccoli

canola or vegetable oil for deep frying in a large heavy pot

2 cups chickpea flour

1 1/2 cups rice flour

1 cup ice cubes

a few liters of soda water – this amount will vary pending types of flours and how long the batter sits before you use it. Good to have more than you need on hand, just in case.

4-6 cups medium broccoli florets


  1. For the Vinaigrette: In a sauce pot, add oil and chopped garlic. Put over medium heat and stir until garlic begins to fry.

  2. Once the garlic begins to turn golden, turn heat to low. Add in oregano and thyme immediately. This will sizzle and pop, so be careful.

  3. Carefully add in vinegar, sugar, and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Leave at room temp until ready to use.

  4. For the Mornay: In a sauce pot, make the blond roux. Whisk in milk and simmer over medium low heat until nappe.

  5. Reduce heat to low and whisk in cheese, small handfuls at a time.

  6. Season with salt and keep warm. Use plastic wrap over the top of the sauce to stop it from forming a skin.

  7. For the Broccoli: In a large mixing bowl, add flours and ice, mixing with a gloved hand or whisk enough soda water to be a runnier pancake batter.

  8. Heat oil to 375°.

  9. Toss florets in the batter; pull out the broccoli, letting excess batter fall off briefly. Gently place into hot oil. Fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or a spider right on to a sheet tray with a wire rack on top.

  10. Season with salt. Repeat until all the broccoli is cooked.

  11. Garnish with thinly sliced prosciutto and parsley leaves.

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