We’re only a handful of episodes into Season 17 of Top Chef: All-Stars L.A., and we’ve already seen a slew of celebrity cameos, from Kelly Clarkson to Ali Wong and Randall Park. But it isn’t the celebs that have us tuning in week after week; it’s the all-star, fan-favorite cheftestants, including Season 6’s Bryan Voltaggio, Season 12’s Melissa King, Season 16’s Nini Nguyen, and Boston-based Season 11 New Orleans frontrunner, Stephanie Cmar.
Cmar, a personal chef for several families, was booted from Season 11 after a technicality but was invited back to the show six seasons later, alongside fellow Boston chef Karen Akunowicz.
Cmar also recently launched her Instagram video tutorial series, “My Shitty Little Kitchen” — “a weekly cooking show proving that, with a little willpower, you, too, can cook just about anything!” The most recent episode? It’s all about biscuits.
“My mom was like, ‘Don’t put a swear word in your show,’” Cmar says with a laugh. “It’s like four electric tops, [and] a very small oven. We have no appliances.”
Cmar may have no appliances (save for one espresso machine), but we learned she sure has a lot packed into her fridge.
Without further ado, let’s take a look inside ‘Top Chef’ star Stephanie Cmar’s fridge, pantry, and more.
SheKnows: Tell us a little bit about what’s in your fridge.
Stephanie Cmar: “Chicken stock, pulled chicken, garlic, raspberries, bacon. David has some Budweisers. Eggs, pickles, and Greek yogurt. David and I made the chicken stock because we wanted to make congee for dinner.”
SK: We’re living in weird times, but what would your fridge typically look like?
SC: “As a private chef, it’s literally full all day because I cook for people. I taste all the food. I get home and make dinners. So, we never had food in the fridge — ever, ever, ever. We had, like, deli turkey.
“In quarantine, I never cooked for myself, and now, all of a sudden, I’m living up to my most potential because I actually have cravings.”
SK: How has the pandemic impacted you as a private chef?
SC: “It’s very weird. Because we’re like a luxury item, families don’t necessarily need us. They feel like they do, but we’re disposable, and because I’m self-employed, it’s not the same.
Fortunately, I’m very cheap and very frugal and saved enough money to kind of get through however many months this takes. But, I feel like all of my other private chef friends — my husband’s also a private chef — we’re kind of in a weird place where it’s, like, are we ever going to be able to go back in these people’s homes? That’s definitely a very interesting feeling. I super love what I do, which is a blessing.”
SK: What does a typical breakfast look like for you?
SC: “I’ve been intermittent fasting because I have nothing to do. [Laughs]
“My best friend Kristen [Kish] got me on it. I always want to be like her. She’s like a big sister to me. I like the challenge, but … it’s awful. [Laughs]
SK: How long have you been doing it?
SC: “Three days. [Laughs]
“So, I haven’t been eating breakfast; but by 2 o’clock when I do eat, I’ve been eating pita chips, Greek yogurt, and then I made a salad of tomato roasted eggplant, cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, and rice wine vinegar.”
SK: What was your most memorable meal?
SC: “My husband and I, when we were boyfriend and girlfriend, I don’t even know if we were that, but we were living together. We had, like, four roommates, and he over-brined the chicken and roasted potatoes under it with onions and garlic.
And honestly, it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. And I think it was, to be honest, one of the first truly home-cooked meals.”
SK: Do you have any controversial food opinions (for example: avocados are trash, cilantro tastes like soap)?
SC: “Walnuts taste like mouth-numbing disgustingness. This and snails are, like, I can’t even think about a snail.”
SK: What’s the one ingredient you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
SC: “Beef. Personally, I don’t love the texture of steak, and it’s been a lifelong thing.”
SK: What’s in your freezer?
SC: “Our freezer is a hot mess: popsicles, butter, and then a bunch of soups because my husband and I can’t figure out how to cook for two. So, we have, like, gallons of bagged soups.”
SK: What’s the strangest ingredient we would find in your cabinets or pantry?
SK: What’s the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
SC: “I don’t know what they’re called. I wish I could look it up right now. They were like baby squid that when you bit through it, it popped — and there was stuff in it.
“We called it squirting squid when we ate it at a place in Boston for my birthday, like three years ago. And it was a big bite.”
SK: What is your one favorite appliance in the kitchen?
SC: “There’s literally only the espresso machine. That’s the only thing that fits on the counter.”
SK: What’s your go-to meal when you only have 20 minutes to cook?
SC: “Tomato soup. Barbara Lynch’s tomato soup to be specific. I worked for her for a long time. It’s like a blender meal.”
SK: Is there anything else you want to add?
SC: “I hope that people who are wondering what the chefs cook know that our pantry is not much different than yours.
We’re working with the same things, and I hope people just are falling in love with cooking since we can’t leave the house.”
Top Chef airs Thursdays at 10/9c on Bravo.
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