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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,

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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?
SI:
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?
SI:
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?
SI:
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?
SI:
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?
SI:
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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