The 'Top Chef' Season 10 winner Kristen Kish knows her way around a kitchen.
She learned to cook at a young age, then studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago to perfect her craft. After working as chef de cuisine at Menton, Chef Barbara Lynch recommended her for the hit Bravo cooking competition Top Chef. After being eliminated during the Restaurant Wars round, Kish competed on Last Chance Kitchen, beating five contestants in the process. She won the finale against Brooke Williamson to take home the honor of Top Chef.
To celebrate Macy's Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Kish—who was born in Seoul, South Korea—made an appearance at the State Street store.
Windy City Times: You were originally adopted in Michigan?
Kristen Kish: I was born in Seoul, and went to Michigan at four months old where I was adopted. I was raised in good ol' white suburbia. I had an all-American brother—the whole nine yards. I moved to Chicago when I was 19 years old.
WCT: I read you modeled in high school.
KK: A little bit. I was scouted when I was 13 because I was tall, Asian, and skinny. I came to Chicago when I signed with Elite, a modeling agency. It was very short lived. I was doubling at culinary school at the same time.
WCT: Did you always want to cook?
KK: At 5 years old, I was watching TV shows with cooking. I didn't realize it could be a career. I could watch a chef cook something then know how to use the knife. If I see something done I can do it.
I didn't know what went together as far as flavor until much later. That is what culinary school taught me.
WCT: What happened after school?
KK: Chicago holds a special place in my heart. I love it. It feels like home. It is also here I struggled realizing that I was gay, but not accepting it yet.
I was having identity issues. I wanted to be a chef with a big name but had forgotten what it was like to be a cook.
When I was in Chicago I got into the partying scene way too much. I woke up one day and decided it was not for me. I moved to Michigan to find myself. A lot of it was from suppressing myself being gay.
I grew up with an amazing family accepting everything, but this was my own struggle being different.
WCT: Where did you meet your current girlfriend?
KK: I am sort of dating. I did have a long-term girlfriend, but we haven't been together in a while.
WCT: Talk about coming out.
KK: That was interesting. I was dating a woman. She lived in New York and I lived in Boston. We met in Charleston for our one year anniversary. I posted a picture to share the moment. It was not my goal to come out. The floodgates opened. A day after that a New York Times article came out that had done a profile on me and my former boss. It casually mentioned my girlfriend.
It was crazy! I didn't think that people cared. I had already came out to my close friends and family, so that part was fine. I received nothing but amazing messages. That is when life takes off, when you can openly be who you are.
WCT: You weren't out of the closet on Top Chef?
KK: No. I didn't talk about anything. The only time I mentioned our relationship was saying, "I just got out of a relationship.'
WCT: Being gay on Top Chef is usually mentioned so casually because the theme is focused on food. How were you cast on the Bravo show?