Top Chef Season 13 came to its thrilling conclusion last week, with Jeremy Ford, the executive chef of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s The Matador Room, narrowly beating out chef Amar Santana for the win. We had the opportunity to chat with 30-year-old Ford over the phone about his win, and during our conversation one thing became very clear: He’s wanted to compete on Top Chef for a long, long time.
“This was absolutely the biggest achievement of my life,” the Jacksonville, Florida-born chef told us. “It’s been such a long road to get where I’m at, 16 years of hard work, all for one specific reason: to be the winner of Top Chef.”
As the show has only been on the air for 10 years, I asked him if this was really his motivation since day one. “I’ve been a huge fan of the show since the first season,” he replied, “but I never thought I was ready. This year I decided to go for it, though.”
Having been a loyal viewer of the show for years, was there anything that surprised him about finally making it in front of the camera? “One thing that was surprising was how many highs and lows there were,” he said. “You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world one minute, and then you’ll be on the bottom and start doubting your stuff. You just have to stay true to yourself. It was also a lot more real than I thought it was going to be. When they say ‘go’ you’ve got to go, and there’s no time to think!”
As for how the show affected how he currently cooks, Ford repeated a popular refrain of chefs who have competed on the show: It served as a real confidence booster. “I go with my gut a lot more now,” he said. “I used to doubt myself a lot more, but now I restrain myself a lot more in what I put on the plate, and just focus on the protein.”
While the show was definitely a whirlwind, Ford doesn’t have any big plans for the future as of now, and is digging in his heels at his Miami Beach restaurant. “I just got my list of spring ingredients in, so I’m ready to go bananas,” he said.