Chef Nini Nguyen is making the most of her Top Chef bonus round

TOP CHEF -- Season:17 -- Pictured: Nini Nguyen -- (Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- Season:17 -- Pictured: Nini Nguyen -- (Photo by: Smallz & Raskind/Bravo) /

Chef Nini Nguyen has become a Top Chef fan favorite.

With back to back Top Chef appearances, Chef Nini Nguyen has made a definite connection with foodies and Top Chef fans. Even though she might not have made the final rounds in either Season 16 or All Stars, the vivacious, talented chef endeared herself to everyone who follows the chef-centric cooking competition.

This Top Chef All Star season gathered together numerous chefs with many accolades. From James Beard Awards to numerous successful restaurants, the chefs’ resumes are daunting. While Chef Nini may not be a huge restaurateur, she deserves and has earned her respect in the kitchen.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chef Nini Nguyen about her Top Chef experience, her thoughts on kitchen culture and her future plans.

As one of two chefs who did back to back seasons, Chef Nini was a little apprehensive about another round of the popular cooking competition. She mentioned that the competition and the accompanying criticism can be hard. Beyond cooking in front of a nation on television, the ability to be creative, react quickly and execute delicious dishes can take a toll.

Even though she had just battled the kitchen gauntlet on Season 16, Chef Nini knew that she could not turn down another opportunity. When she received the call to compete again, she jumped.

In Chef Nini’s case, she wanted to focus on having fun. Although she was surrounded by big personalities, she never wavered in her willingness to embrace the moment and learn from those around her. Whether it was the women chefs supporting each other or celebrating her own point of view, Chef Nini was always a positive voice in the kitchen.

Chef Nini connects with foodies.

For many chefs, this cooking competition is more than just winning a title. The platform gives them a unique opportunity to become that familiar face, become part of foodies’ lives and propel them into a larger part of the culinary world.

In Chef Nini’s case, she is taking that opportunity and blending it with an avenue that connects her to those fans who enjoyed watching her the past two seasons. While people marvel at her quick-witted commentary on social media, Chef Nini is coming into people’s home to help them cook.

For several years, Chef Nini was part of a cooking school. Now, her online cooking classes sell out quickly. If you have ever wanted to make her secret sauce that was season in the Season 17, that winning spoonbread from Season 16 or learn the secret to making perfect Japanese pancakes, there is a virtual class waiting for you. While a class does not guarantee that you will make the perfectly shaped dumpling, it will make you feel more confident in the kitchen.

Her versatility of being able to both execute and explain dishes makes Chef Nini so likable. While many people can ohh and ah over the visually stunning dish, foodies want to make the experience real. The connection that Chef Nini brings to the kitchen is unique.

In her cooking classes, she balances that fun with learning. Since she understands that aspiring chefs want to up their cooking game, she recommended a few items that any home cook can and should master.

Home cooking tips from Chef Nini.

According to Chef Nini, she suggests for home cooks to sharpen their knife skills. From cutting to dicing to everything in between, knife skills are the foundation of any good dish. Once a home cook gains confidence in those cutting techniques, she can move onto other aspects, like roasting.

Additionally, she mentioned that video can be a great resource for the home cook. In addition to her virtual classes, Chef Nini said that she loves watching YouTube cooking videos. Those clips have hours of cooking knowledge at people’s fingertips.

Even if you cannot understand the language, it does not matter. Cooking and food are a universal language. Watching and learning comes without a language barrier. While those videos might make your hungry, they can inspire some cooking creativity.

Looking back at Chef Nini’s time on Top Chef, she has brought a different sense of creativity to the kitchen. While she brought more of her Vietnamese and New Orleans background to the All Stars Season, her balance of being both a savory and pastry chef makes her a standout in the kitchen.

Where other chefs groan and dread the Top Chef dessert challenges, Chef Nini can shine. That ability to embrace both sides of the kitchen sets her apart. Simply stated pastry chefs must understand the science behind cooking. That additional knowledge can make a savory dish stand out.

Chef Nini mentioned that her background as a pastry chef helped her to build flavors and textures in many of her dishes. Since a great pastry dish must have all the components, that concept exemplifies many of her savory dishes. When all the senses come together, a dish can be perfection.

Still, some savory chefs do not give pastry chefs their due. Without debating the reasoning, Chef Nini is a strong voice to make a case for a chef to embrace both sides of the kitchen.

While she balances the duality in her cooking, Chef Nini is strong her beliefs. As seen a little bit in the Top Chef All Stars season, the women chefs seemed to support each other. While women chefs often have to work twice as hard to succeed in the culinary world, their voices are getting stronger.

Celebrating the opportunities that lay ahead.

Chef Nini mentioned that she is determined to follow her path in the culinary world. From finding mentors who fostered her creativity to working in kitchens that celebrated all the culinary voices, the culinary world is more aware and adapting to those changes.

For her, Top Chef gave her the opportunity to create bonds with some amazing female chefs. In some ways, those moments can inspire any up and coming female chefs to embrace the opportunities that lie in their paths.

While Chef Nini Nguyen might not have walked away with a Top Chef title, she endeared herself to foodies. As she continues to connect with home cooks through her virtual cooking classes, she has put a big dream out into the universe.

One day, Chef Nini hopes to open a restaurant and cooking school in New Orleans. While it remains to be seen when those doors will open, I hope to have a seat at both the table and in the kitchen to learn and eat from the exceptional Chef Nini Nguyen.

For more information on Chef Nini Nguyen’s Virtual Cooking Classes, please visit her website.

Top Chef All Stars LA airs on Bravo, Thursday nights at 10 p.m.

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What was your favorite Chef Nini dish from Top Chef? Do you think that she could be named fan favorite?