Dine with a top chef: restaurants from winners and favorites accross the west

09 / 2021 | by: Sonoma Magazine

The West is a big place—we say this all the time—but so is the Top Chef contestant network. Finalists and veterans of the show have planted roots all along the coast, with brick and mortars where patrons and fans can step in and taste their culinary creations off-screen. Now with 18 seasons of the show behind us, we can put together a pretty extensive list of spots to visit.


Top Chef has always been about highlighting the best chefs and challenging them in new ways while offering advice and critique from some of the top food and wine experts in the world. Each chef leaves the show with new experiences and an expanded knowledge of the culinary world they adore. So many of these chefs take the inspiration from their time on the show and mix it with influences from their hometowns and personal backgrounds in their existing restaurants—or channel it into opening new spots.


In San Diego, Top Chef season three finalist and All-Stars veteran Brian Malarkey owns Animae, a stunning restaurant on the waterfront. While attending a dinner at Animae prepared by four chefs from season 18, I wondered what other Top Chef alum restaurants I might be missing out on. I have been a longtime fan of Ramen Hood in Grand Central Market, owned by season two winner Ilan Hall, and I was excited to hear season four winner Stephanie Izard brought Girl and the Goat to Los Angeles. So after some more digging, tasting, and talking with some big Top Chef fans on our team, we came up with a list of all of the restaurants in the West owned and operated by previous winners, runners-up, and fan favorites of the show.


From a Szechuan-style hot chicken spot in L.A. by season 12 winner chef Mei Lin to a quick karaage stop in Seattle opened by season 18 fan favorite chef Shota Nakajima, we’ve got all of the spots to add to your must-try list. Keep scrolling for our list of restaurants in the West run by Top Chef alumni.


Restaurants by Top Chef Runners-Up

Folktable in Sonoma, California

Chef Casey Thompson was runner-up on season three and also received the fan-favorite title. Folktable opened in 2021 and offers Thompson’s take on farm-to-table cuisine, using locally grown goods from Sonoma and nearby farms to curate a seasonal menu. It is not her first restaurant venture; she also opened The European Bar & Lounge, a cocktail bar in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood.


table full of delicious food and people eating main dish is a tray of bacon with dill pickles and some baby carrots radish and onion