Top Chef is back on October 2 (Bravo, 10 p.m.), this time set in New Orleans for its 11th season, and Las Vegas is once again well-represented. Shirley Chung is a veteran local chef who has spent time in the kitchens of Bouchon, Guy Savoy and, most recently, China Poblano. Her résumé is especially impressive considering cooking is her second career; she left a corporate gig in Silicon Valley to pursue the culinary arts and hasn’t looked back. Chung chatted with the Weekly about her Top Chef experience and future plans.
In the first episode of Top Chef, it seems some of the other contestants consider you a favorite. Did you see it that way? I didn’t really think much about it. I’ve watched a few seasons, and it seems the caliber of talent just gets better and better. All of the [contestants] work for reputable chefs or own restaurants, and some have been nominated for James Beard Awards, so I definitely think very highly of the other competitors.
What surprised you most about being on the show? Just how great the chefs are, and how generous everyone is. They’re all willing to share; there are no secrets. And no one is holding back. I think I made some really great friends for life.
Had you spent time in New Orleans before? This was my first time in New Orleans. I had a great time and really fell in love with the food and the people. My background is a mixture of everything, just like Creole cuisine, so it matched up well for me.
You’re not currently attached to a restaurant. What’s next? Are you planning to stay in Las Vegas? I’ve worked for so many great chefs throughout my career and opened almost all of the Las Vegas restaurants where I’ve worked. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to strike out on my own. There are so many chefs who come to Las Vegas but don’t necessarily call it home, and I hope that will change, that we’ll have some more homemade famous chefs.