‘Top Chef’ Finalists Joe Flamm and Adrienne Cheatham on What Made This Season Different
If you’ve been watching this season of Bravo’s Top Chef, which will be wrapping up on Thursday with a showdown between chefs (and Chicago natives) Adrienne Cheatham and Joe Flamm, you’ve probably noticed that this season has felt a little different than others. Whereas in previous seasons the competitors tended to be a bit more catty, this season’s chefs have been the polar opposite. Not only did they all seem to get along (for the most part), many of them were downright chummy. And according to Cheatham (who served as executive sous chef at Le Bernardin and executive chef at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster) and Flamm (executive chef at Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggia), that sense of closeness wasn’t just an editing trick.
“When we were all filming, everyone was in a similar mindset: Let’s just enjoy our time, because we’re in a room full of talented people,” Flamm told us. “It was a mature, experienced cast.”
The duo also didn’t rule out the possibility that the current political climate brought them closer together.
“There’s something to be said for that,” Flamm added. “Everything else sucks right now, so let’s not be sh---y to each other.”
While neither chef had participated in a cooking competition of this caliber before, both agreed that years in a professional kitchen helped to mentally prepare them for the challenge.
“Nothing can prepare you for this; it was unlike anything I’d ever done,” Cheatham said. “But some qualities get you through it: Work hard and persevere, and come back swinging.”
“You can get absolutely destroyed by the challenge or you can learn from it,” Flamm added.
Making it this far in a season of Top Chef (especially one with such a high caliber of chefs) was no small feat, and Flamm and Cheatham have some advice for those considering auditioning for a future season.
“You have to enjoy the ride, know yourself, and be comfortable,” Flamm said. “It accentuates who you are, so if you’re a jerk, you’ll come off as a bigger jerk.”
“Confidence plays a big role,” Cheatham added. “Be comfortable and own it. If you’re insecure you’ll tank. You need to be solely focused on what the challenge is. I wish I knew that going in!”
As for what fans can expect in the finale, both chefs agreed that the final challenge, in which they’re tasked with creating their own tasting menu, resulted in their best cooking of the season.
“We’ve cooked so much stuff this season that forced us to rely on technique and shoot from the hip,” Flamm said. “For the finale, we were finally able to write our own menu and cook the best food we can.”
“There were some good dishes along the way, but nothing like what’s coming in the finale,” Cheatham agreed.
And for what the future holds? Flamm told us that he’s happy to stay on at Spiaggia, but that he’d like to open his own restaurant eventually; and Cheatham, who is getting married next weekend, is working on a Harlem pop-up to be called Sunday Best.
The season finale of Top Chef airs March 8 at 9 p.m. Eastern on Bravo. To satisfy your post- Top Chef food show fix, check out these 5 cooking shows you aren’t watching, but should be.