Top Chef DC: Bios Beyond What Bravo Tells You

We did some digging to find dirt on the 17 cheftestants. Here's what you should know before tuning into Top Chef DC.
Photograph courtesy of Bravo TV.

Kelly Liken

Age: 33

Lives in: Vail, Colorado.

Job: Chef/owner of the six-year-old Restaurant Kelly Liken—yep, she’s bold enough to name the place after herself—with her husband, Rick Colomitz. The restaurant’s Web site describes the food as “seasonal American cuisine that relies heavily on locally produced and cultivated products. The menu changes frequently to offer the highest quality ingredients of each season.” Sound familiar?

Lots of customers order:
Elk carpaccio with bulgur-tabbouleh salad and mustard aioli, and the sticky-bun sundae with caramel, pecans, and vanilla ice cream.

Education: The Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard of culinary schools. And she has an undergraduate physics degree. 

Trophy shelf includes:
Valedictorian at the CIA, two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef Southwest (2009 and 2010), named as one of Bon Appétit magazine’s next generation of women chefs.

Small-screen, big-stage experience: Last month, she went up against—and lost to—Jose Garces on Iron Chef America in Battle Blue Cheese. 

Washington connection: Post-CIA internship at the Inn at Little Washington.

Reminds us of: The endearing qualities of Stephanie Izard from season four crossed with the tough-girl attitude of Jamie Lauren from season five.

Needs help with: Facebook’s privacy settings. Liken is fourth from the left.

Scorecard: 5 points for accolades, 2 points for opening a restaurant at age 27, 1 point for wearing cowboy boots in her Top Chef photo, minus 1 point for her floral prom dress. Total: 7 points.

Photograph courtesy of Bravo TV.

Amanda Baumgarten

Age: 27

Lives in: Los Angeles.

Job: Consultant, previously executive sous chef at Ford’s Filling Station, a restaurant in Culver City owned by Harrison Ford’s son. Before that, she says, “I’ve worked in pretty much every fine-dining restaurant in LA, barring Providence and Spago.”

Education: Taught herself to cook as a kid while making dinners for her then-single dad. Then went to Le Cordon Bleu in London.

In addition to chef’s whites, you might catch her wearing: A micromini dress and a smirk.

Loves to: Butcher.

Favorite dish to make: Boudin noir with vanilla-apple chutney.

Facebook reveals an affinity for: In Cold Blood, Jaws, and . . . Ira Glass.

You know she’s from LA because: She had a bit part (“girl at amusement park”) in Disney’s Blank Check.

Reminds us of: Leah Cohen from season five, with a dash of Jennifer Zavala from season six.

Endearing tic: Tends to wink as she talks.

Obligatory showing of Top Chef bravado: “I don’t think it’s difficult to make great food,” she says with a shrug in her video bio.

Scorecard: 2 points for butchering prowess, 1 point for fancy culinary school, 1 point for acting in a movie starring Brian Bonsall (Andy Keaton on Family Ties). Total: 4 points.

>>For more Top Chef DC coverage, click here.

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