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Top Chef Winner Stephanie Izard Keeps It Real

I know you all were as excited as I was to see Stephanie Izard become the first female to win Top Chef. Congratulations, Stephanie!

Over the course of the show, the Chicago-based chef, 31, kept her cool while churning out creative and comforting dishes. After the finale, I was delighted to get to speak to Stephanie about her favorite parts of being on the show, how her life has changed, and what she's cooking up next. To read what Stephanie had to say,


YumSugar: What has been the response to your victory so far?
Stephanie Izard:
The feedback has been great. Most everybody is excited that I won and says they were rooting for me from the beginning. I was at [Chicago's] Green City Market this morning, and everyone was cheering. I was with Valerie from the show, and we were like, maybe we should have gone a little incognito.

YS: What was going through your head during the final judges' table, when Padma said your name then took that very long pause?
I was like, oh my God, she’s gonna tell me to pack my knives and go. You know, on Project Runway, they always call out one more person. The pause was even longer in real life, so I was just staring at her, and when she said I was the winner, I was like, "What?!" I think I had sort of talked myself out it.

YS: Why did you decide to make the ricotta pound cake?
Before I left, I spent a week trying to come up with different dessert ideas. I really liked the cake, but I was just second guessing it trying to come up with different components. I don’t even like cheesecake, so I don’t know what I was thinking making a ricotta filling. I still lose sleep over that ricotta pound cake. I’m sort of a perfectionist, and I would have rather won with a perfect meal.

YS: On what challenge do you think you performed best?
I think I'd say restaurant wars. Having owned my own restaurant, I was able to show that I’m well-rounded, in that I can run the front of the house and I made some great dishes, too.

YS: What aspects of your personality make you a good chef?
I don’t have a big ego, and I have a way of earning the respect of my peers and my employees without screaming. You can get people to respect you as a boss without turning to that route. I just try to stay calm and respond in a calm manner. Being a perfectionist, it’s my detriment that I’m just never happy with anything. But I'm always pushing myself to get better and better.

YS: What's next for you? What are you working on now?
I actually owned a restaurant for about three years, and I sold it just before going on the show. I’m ready to get back in the game. I want a place for people to come actually eat my food. I am just searching around Chicago for a new restaurant space and for business partners and investors. I’d love to have a place open by late next Spring, so we’ll see if I can make it happen. It's going to be very reflective of me and the restaurants I like to go to. There’s not going to be any pretension or $40 entrees. It’s all about good food and beers and having a good time.

Photos courtesy of Bravo

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SugarFreak SugarFreak 8 years
Good for her. I think she's smart, humble, got her head/heart in the right place and cooks the kind of food I like. I love Chicago so I hope she has a spot open by next summer so I can visit there again!
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i'm thrilled that she won and i can't wait to hear if she's opened her own place. is it just me or were there more contestnats this year who have their own place or just opened their own place than in past years? i feel like in the past, the winner really relied on getting the $$ to open something, but this year a lot of them already had that established...
robertodenise robertodenise 8 years
I have been for Stephanie since the first episode and have never wavered. I think her food is clever but authenitc and she really seems to have a wonderful, self-effacing personality. If I am ever in Chicago again, I will definitely try it out!
a-geek a-geek 8 years
Heh, I thought that pound cake would be her end - it looked terrible. That said, the rest of her food must have rocked to make up for it. Would definitely love to try her food in person.
Kristykitten Kristykitten 8 years
Oops. I put a heart but it didn't like my bracket! I heart Stephanie! I would eat at her restaurant FOR SURE! Though it will probably be impossible to get a table.
Leilanic1 Leilanic1 8 years
she's so great! i wanted her to win from the beginning and definitely go to her restaurant! i thought she looked like a heavier evangeline lilly! very cute!
Gabriela14815884 Gabriela14815884 8 years
I will definitely make a trek to Chi-town to try her food. I was so happy she won :)
mswender mswender 8 years
I love her too and just wanted to join the lovefest, hopefully I will make it out to Chicago after her restaurant opens so I cna eat her food! I loved in the first elimination challenge when her hand was shaking she was so nervous and she won!
MindayH MindayH 8 years
Oh I love her.
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 8 years
She is super nice and cool, we have met her at Green City Market in chicago :)
jellydonut80 jellydonut80 8 years
i heart her!
Courtney82 Courtney82 8 years
i am so happy for stephanie, she did really well through the whole season. Cant wait to go to Chicago and try her restaurant when it opens up.
teagirl teagirl 8 years
Also, does she kind of look like Jenna Fischer?
ahappierdiane ahappierdiane 8 years
I have been rooting for her from the begining. I knew she was going to be the first female top chef. She's so down to earth and that's why I like her. Besides, girl can cook.
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Hooray! I would absolutely seek out her restaurant — the kind of food she cooks seems like the kind of food I want to eat. And she just seems like a genuinely nice, normal person, too.
shoneyjoe shoneyjoe 8 years
Phenomenal. Out of all reality TV show winners I've seen so far (not just Top Chef), she's the one who might be the most grounded. Nicely done.
WineUnleashed WineUnleashed 8 years
Out of ALL the reality type shows I am most impressed with how Stephanie carried herself. She showed a level of intelligence and maturity we rarely see on the Tube (and sometimes in real life). CONGRATS! Cheers, Angela
sakuraa sakuraa 8 years
"There’s not going to be any pretension or $40 entrees" - because I didn't like her enough before! SWEEEET!
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