Last night Matador Room's Jeremy Ford did something no chef in Miami has been able to do — take home the title of Top Chef. But after a head-to-head cooking battle with contestant Amar Santana, he came out victorious and took the crown home for season 13 of the cooking competition. Today we caught up with the newly crowned winner to find out about the competition and what's next for him.
So, has it sunk in yet? Have you even gotten any sleep?
It's funny you say that. We had a killer after party with Jean-Georges last night in New York. It was gnarly. I'm running on fumes.
That's awesome. Well deserved. What's it like being the first chef from South Florida to take home Top Chef honors?
You know, making it past Round 1 was my first goal, but obviously when I got into the top 5 and top 4, it was, okay I have a chance at this, but never, never was there a
But never, never was there a moment when I was like, 'oh, I got this in the bag.'
moment when I was like, 'oh, I got this in the bag.' It was a constant battle of pushing yourself to the edge. When it came down to me and Amar, I stayed focused to the techniques and brought it home. It's definitely a huge thing for me to bring that to Miami.
You started off the show winning the first quickfire challenge. Did that give a certain pressure, put a certain pressure on you that maybe you wouldn't have had otherwise?
No. You know what, actually winning the first challenge actually gave me a lot of confidence believe it or not. I think it set a precedent too. I think it was one of those things where everyone's kind of like whoa, right off the bat. Bringing home the win kind of separates you a little bit and has everybody thinking. In a competition, it's a lot of mental challenge you go through, and I think taking home the first win was definitely a plus.
And then for the final meal that you cooked, you cooked with Jean-Georges, your mentor. How was that?
Working for Jean-Georges, you're really working for his culinary team, which are the backbone. You don't really get as much time in the kitchen with Jean-Georges one-on-one like that, so literally, man, we rocked it out like five hours that day. It was insane.
Now what would you say was the biggest takeaway, lesson, you learned from all of this craziness, Top Chef world?
You know what, time management I think is a very underrated thing with chefs to think
I think being on Top Chef, the biggest takeaway is time management, how to execute things in real-time.
about, but how many times do we hold a table up because we're putting tweezered herbs or flowers on a dish? How many times does that hold up a table? I think being on Top Chef, the biggest takeaway is time management, how to execute things in real-time because in a kitchen you say, oh, we're up in 2 minutes, we're up in 4 minutes. It's actually like 9 minutes. I think time management is a huge plus.
Was there a certain challenge or a Quickfire on the show that really was just kind of took you to the edge of challenges, like really stood out in your head?
Yeah. I mean obviously says Restaurant Wars, but I don't think anybody in past seasons can really relate to the situation we were put into. Doing a lunch and dinner service is absolutely insane.
Now being on the show, was it everything you kind of imagined it to be or were there certain elements you weren't expecting?
I was actually hoping for it to be less real than it actually was. I thought it was more staging from watching on TV, but it definitely was as real as it looks. There is no time to think. When they say 20 minutes, it's 20 minutes to create something. I definitely wish it was a little more fake, actually.
I thought it was more staging from watching on TV, but it definitely was as real as it looks.
Have you noticed people kind of responding to you any differently since the show started airing?
Yeah, it definitely put my name on the map and and bringing it some attention, so yeah, definitely. There's a lot more opportunities than there was last year.
So speaking of which, what is next?
Well for now, just embracing the mentorship of Jean-Georges and forging on there at Matador Room and making sure the menu's up to date and getting back in the kitchen, for sure.