My initial impression of chef Eric Adjepong on this season of Top Chef was that he seemed like the popular kid, the chef most likely to be voted student body president. That initial charm can wear off pretty easily, but Chef Eric’s still smiling and winning, just one episode and a winning vote away from being named this season’s Top Chef.
The Bronx-bred 31-year-old, who co-owns a pop-up and catering company in DC with his wife (he was also a finalist for People’s “sexiest chef alive” in 2018), has revealed multitudes in his time on the show. In addition to trying to introduce Ghanaian dishes every chance he gets, during the bullion challenge in episode 10, Adjepong shared, “I actually wrote my thesis about the use of bullion cubes in West African cooking.”
It was, to my knowledge, the first time “actually my thesis was about this” has ever been dropped on Top Chef. We tend to think of chefs as people who start working in kitchens in their teens, run themselves ragged working 70 hour weeks, and freak out if they’re not running their own kitchens by their late 20s. But Adjepong took a few years off to move to London and get his masters degree in the middle of his career. Now he’s back, competing on Top Chef, where he’s reached the final four, proving there’s no one blueprint for success.
I wondered about that thesis, and about what else Chef Eric might be hiding. So I spoke to him by phone this past week to get some answers ahead of tonight’s episode.
Thanks for talking to me.
Yeah man, I appreciate the time. It’s good to put the voice behind the name as well, so I’m looking forward to it.
I was just watching the most recent episode just now.
What did you think?
Well, you started talking back at the judges, and I was like, “Oh no, what is he doing?” But then I was also like, “He’s kind of right, that is a really weird criticism of a curry.” But then I was like, “Wait, he’s not gonna argue with the Indian lady about curry, is he?”
Right, right. So it’s tough, man, because you want to be respectable, but I’m like, I know what I’m talking about as well. I don’t know. It was interesting, but it’s crazy to think that, especially Padma man, her palate is crazy, right?
It’s so well-versed. So on her side of the world, and this is how crazy food works, her side of the world, this is how food is presented, versus my side of the world, and we essentially call it the same thing, we call it “curry.” So it’s almost philosophical at that point.