Two back-to-back seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef have showcased two promising Houston women chefs: Dawn Burrell in Season 18 in Portland and Evelyn García in Season 19 here in Houston. Although neither woman won the acclaimed title of Top Chef, the competition series served as a launchpad for their culinary careers.
For García, her infectious giggle and vulnerability on camera captured the hearts of Houstonians, and her expertise led her to compete in the season finale, where she lost to chef Buddha Lo in a cutthroat fight to the finish. Although she walked away from the competition without the title, Top Chef was only the beginning for the proud Mexican-Salvadorian Houstonian. We caught up with García after the Season 19 finale to see what she’s cooking up next.
If we could go back to the finale of Top Chef, was there anything going through your head when the judges announced the winner? Honestly, it was just like, OK, whatever happens, happens. Could I have changed things? Could I have done this? Of course. But overall, I was just so happy with what I put out. I was happy for Buddha. I think I would have been happy for all of us. I mean, we really were all putting ourselves out there, and we’re all feeling everything, and we’re trying to do our best.
What was your absolute favorite moment from Top Chef? I feel like one that will forever stick with me will definitely be the female trailblazer episode. It was really cool to have Laurie Choi there as well, because I do a lot with I’ll Have What She’s Having. I think it was just so much—not just emotion, but just so much connection, being a female in this industry, being a female in Texas right now. And then creating a dish [her Selena-inspired dish from Episode 6] for someone that I looked up to growing up, so it was just a lot of things that I connected to and are very memorable.
On Top Chef, there’s a kind of intimacy that you have with cooking because you’re able to really tell a story. Could you tell me about that? It definitely goes back to being stripped down to what I felt was your essence, or at least that was my experience. Not really thinking about anything else other than what I’m trying to portray in this one dish and, obviously, it has to be technically sound, and I have to make sure my food tastes good. But I took it upon myself to show who I am. I’ve always been very artsy, but the food was my outlet to let my creativity and my personality show, and I felt like that was my goal. I was like: If I’m here, I’m just gonna be me, and I tried to do that on every challenge, every quick-fire, every dish.
What does the road ahead look like for Evelyn García? [Top Chef] was just the beginning. I feel as if everybody thought I was busy before; no, no, it’s coming. It wasn’t on my goal sheet to be on Top Chef, around the same time that I’m going to open a restaurant, so I think things are aligning. There’s so much I want to do, and I think obviously this platform is going to help me a lot.
What is the status of Jūn by KIN? We’re currently going through permitting. We’re working through design and stuff like that. We were shooting for the fall, but we don’t know how long the city takes.
What are your expectations for Jūn? Our goal is really to be a place where we get to share, not only our food philosophy but also our memories. I feel like the food’s gonna be very personal. We want to connect with people through our food, and we want to be that neighborhood restaurant in the Heights that you go to.
If there was anything that you could let Houstonians know, now that you’re finished with Top Chef, what would you tell them? If I wasn’t proud of Houston before, I’m so proud of Houston now, being able to showcase and have so many people see your city. I feel like overall what makes our city the best—not being biased—is our people. I’m just extremely proud of Houston and the people who make the city.