‘Top Chef’ Winner Kelsey Barnard Clark: ‘It Never Occurred to Me That I Could Win’

The Alabama native bested the competition and took home the crown
Top Chef
Carmo Correia/Bravo

Finalists Sara Bradley, Eric Adjepong, and Kelsey Barnard Clark

“Top Chef” Season 16 aired its finale Thursday night, and (spoiler alert!) chef Kelsey Barnard Clark took home the crown, besting fellow finalists Sara Bradley and Eric Adjepong in Macau. We had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Barnard Clark about the finale, competing against her friend Bradley, and what’s next.

Kelsey Barnard Clark

Carmo Correia/Bravo

Barnard Clark after learning that she'd won.

“It’s nice that it’s not a secret any more, that’s for sure,” Barnard Clark said when asked how she feels about the cat being out of the bag, as the final episode was filmed about six months ago. “But it wasn’t too hard to keep it a secret. I kind of pushed it to the back of my brain, so I wasn’t tempted to talk about it.”

Filming the finale in Macau was “a breath of fresh air,” she said, “because we were all on the same playing field.” And as for competing against Bradley, who she previously worked with at (now-closed) New York City’s Dovetail, she called it “a dream come true”: “If you’re not going to win, you want someone that you really like and respect to win,” she said.

“It never occurred to me that I could win,” she replied when asked if there was one specific moment when it occurred to her that she might win it all. “I never thought that I couldn’t win, but I just wanted to make every dish in each challenge perfect and take it day by day. My focus was always laser sharp on what we were doing in that moment.”

She called it “nice to get back into the groove of things” at her Dothan, Alabama, restaurant KBC after spending eight weeks away filming, and plans to renovate the eatery, expand it to accommodate more people, and build a bar. “I didn’t know if people would support it, but now I know they will,” she said.

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“The competition gave me a lot of confidence,” she added. “It made me realize how strong I was to be able to compete, and to know that I really could do this.” With her win, we won't be surprised if Barnard Clark ends up running one of the best restaurants in America.