I’ve been rewatching a lot of Top Chef lately in preparation for the new season to start soon, and I’ve been talking to a few of my fellow readers who are also avid TC fans about what books we’d recommend to some of our favorite chefs through the seasons. Maybe they can pop in some ear buds while they’re prepping ingredients and listen to an audiobook! Special thanks to my friend Isabelle for her invaluable contributions and geeking out about the show with me!
Dale Talde (seasons 4 and 8): A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman because in Dale’s first season he was grumpy and hard to like, but when he came back for All Stars and to be a judge, he absolutely grew on me and was easy to love.
Michael (season 6) and Bryan (seasons 6 and 17) Voltaggio: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante because the book chronicles a competitive but supportive, entwined friendship. Plus, it is set in Italy!
Jen Carroll (seasons 6, 8 and 17): Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa because it features a female protagonist who has lived multiple lives – she’s a little prickly, but absolutely leaves an impression.
Beverly Kim (season 9): Heaven by Mieko Kawakami because the book has a nuanced take on bullying — Bev was treated very poorly by a lot of the other contestants during one of my least favorite seasons of the show.
Stephanie Cmar (seasons 10, 11 and 17): Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell because Stephanie was so open and vulnerable about her grief over losing her brother and the book is an exploration of pain and catharsis.
Carrie Baird (season 15): Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine because both Carrie and the author are warm, inventive and passionate about Colorado. Plus short stories seem like the fancy toast of the literary world!
Eric Adjepong (seasons 16 and 7): Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi because Eric spoke so passionately about representing food from the African diaspora, even naming his spot in restaurant wars Middle Passage, and the book follows the family legacy from two sisters in eighteenth century Ghana.
Dawn Burrell (season 18): In the Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado because it tells the story of a high-powered Silicon Valley executive who left that life to become a climber, conquering Everest, and Dawn was an Olympain who is now a celebrated chef.
Maria Mazon (season 18): Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia because it’s filled with so much heart, just like Maria. Plus she is passionate about Mexican cooking, and the book is set in Mexico City.
Ellen Whitfield is senior publicist at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.