As the only Houston chef on Top Chef Season 19, Evelyn Garcia carried the pride of the city on her shoulders. While the talented chef earned a spot in the Top Chef Houston finale, her journey was one that endeared the chef to food television fans. Even though she didn’t walk away with the title, many people are longing for a seat at her table.
When a hometown chef competes on Top Chef, it can be a blessing and a curse. While she wants to do her city proud, she also doesn’t want to be just defined by the city. Luckily, Evelyn found the perfect balance while still staying true to herself, her heritage and her culinary point of view.
Recently, Evelyn spoke to FoodSided about her Top Chef experience. While many people, including her fellow chefs, predicted that she would make the Top Chef Season 19 finale, it was an emotional experience for her. As she admitted, there were tears, laughs and a variety of other emotions along the way.
Still, when the Top Chef producers called, Evelyn came to the conclusion that this opportunity could not be overlooked. Like many chefs, she experienced the downsides of the restaurant industry over the past couple of years. But, she found ways to pivot. It might not have been a brick and mortar location, but she found ways to keep her food and her name relevant in the local food space.
Speaking to the opportunity that Top Chef offered, Evelyn revealed that she has a new restaurant on the way. Even though she didn’t know what the eventual Top Chef Season 19 outcome would be, that shot was the exposure to catapult her name into the culinary elite.
Although it was and still is a lot to juggle, it is something that chefs do all the time. Evelyn admitted that she “put a lot of personal pressure” on herself. But, when it came time to cook, she would focus harder. It was about always putting the best possible food on the plate. That “hyper focus” allowed her to showcase the “best of her ability.”
When it came to Judges Table, Evelyn said that was the time where the emotions flowed. Those tears didn’t season the dish, but they were the expression of that hard work. Happy, sad or just wrought with emotion, her ability to put it all on the line is why Evelyn endeared herself to the Top Chef fan base.
Evelyn believes that when she made that emotional connection to her food it was most successful. It was more than transforming humble, traditional ingredients in a way that the judges appreciated. She put a piece of herself into that dish. When she combined passion, emotion and love, it was a recipe for success.
Specifically, Evelyn recalled her nopales dish. For her, that one was quite special. It took an ingredient that was part of her culinary tradition, yet she found a creative way to elevate that familiar. Even though she felt that pressure, she was able to translate the humble ingredients into a dish that left a lasting impression. This characteristic is why Evelyn is and will continue to be a top chef.
Now that Top Chef Houston has ended, the future is bright for Evelyn. From her upcoming restaurant to By KIN in Houston to a variety of other projects, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy her takes on her Southeast Asian food always served with an emotional connection that leaves people wanting more.