A very sweet and timely victory indeed. Melissa King, 36, bested 14 other fierce competitors to score the Top Chef: All Stars L.A. crown on Thursday, June 16. The California-based culinarian, who first appeared on Top Chef: Boston in 2014, was able to secure herself the title after beating two incredible talented competitors in Bryan Voltaggio (Top Chef: Las Vegas, Top Chef Masters) and Stephanie Cmar (Top Chef: New Orleans) in a very emotional finale that was filmed in Italy months before the Coronavirus pandemic took over (head judge Tom Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi touched on that issue on the show’s 12th episode).
Emotional is a bit of an understatement as her finale food actually made someone cry! Italian butcher Dario Cecchini wept after trying her last course which was a Hong Kong Milk Tea Tiramisu. Melissa told us that she had no idea about him weeping until after it happened which in turn made her shed tears as well!
But wait, there’s so much more to Melissa’s victory that makes it special. She now holds the record for the most elimination wins in a single Top Chef season with six! Her being crowned during Pride Month is also that much sweeter as she is now the 2nd LGBTQ winner from the Emmy-winning series following Top Chef: Seattle‘s Kristen Kish. Oh, and she was also voted fan favorite over Bryan. Melissa told us that Bryan, who is now a 3-time TC runner up, was initially her biggest competition as his last name “scared her” (Bryan’s brother Michael Voltaggio won Top Chef: Las Vegas). No need to be scared anymore!
Scared or not, it was all love for Melissa and her amazing cast that featured some of the best of the best the show has ever seen. “The hardest part about doing the show was filming long hours but the best part was making friends for life,” she told us about the overall experience. Aww!
The future for Melissa looks bright but she is also spending time focusing on not only her present but the issues that are affecting the world right now. She plans on donating her $10,000 prize money from winning fan favorite to a bunch of amazing charities including Black Visions Collective, Asian Americans for Equality Asian Youth Center and The Trevor Project.
Oh and she’s also developed an amazing line of sauces that will give you a direct taste of what this talented chef has had to offer (fish sauce caramel and sichuan chili sauce for example. Yum!)
Melissa also chatted with us about all things Pride which included her amazing statement on the importance of being unapologetically yourself.
How are you honoring Pride Month while in quarantine?
I’m trying my best to support our community. I created a merch line and designed pride hats where $5 of every purchase will go towards supporting The Trevor Project. I’m also tying charities to my virtual cooking webinars, my last one I had part proceeds go towards supporting my API LGBTQ community through an organization called APIENC.
How do you normally celebrate Pride Month? Do you go to a parade?
I live in San Francisco so you can imagine how much the city shuts down just to celebrate pride. It’s the month I look forward to most. I always go to the Dyke March and hang out at Dolores Park on pride Saturday, and I’m often in the parade on Pride Sunday. I also spend time with my queer family and we go out to dinners and evening celebrations. I basically take the entire week off and immerse myself in the city.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me means more than just being proud. It’s about finding the strength to live your truth, and be completely unapologetic about it!
What advice do you have for LGBTQ celebrating their first Pride this year?
Go march in a Pride parade, it’s the most amazing feeling! Dive deep into your community, they will embrace you with open arms.