WINNER!: Abe Lopez
Chef de Cuisine - Pacifico
Center Valley, Pa.
At 7-years-old I was watching The Frugal Gourmet instead of cartoons and shopping for groceries with my mom. But it's my ex-mother-in-law who convinced me to quit my job as an elevator mechanic and enroll in culinary school. I spent the majority of my career in some of NYC's best kitchens. My first night at Aqua Grill was so tough that I walked out almost in tears. It taught me that I wasn't God's gift to cooking...yet. I cook Latin fusion food and emphasize simplicity, freshness and flavor. If I don't get my own way in my kitchen, you'll hear about it. To be successful in this business, you have to love what you do. I'm excited to compete on the show to see what's next for Abe Lopez.
Lior Lev Sercarz
Chef and Owner of La Boite A Biscuits and La Boite A Epices
New York, N.Y.
I'm the owner of two companies, La Boite A Biscuits and La Boite A Epices in New York City. After working all over the world, I came to New York and decided to pursue my two greatest passions: pastries and spices. I run a very efficient kitchen; there is never any need for yelling in my kitchen. When I cook, I focus on just one or two ingredients. I believe that food is art and I always want to please whoever I am feeding.
Sous Chef and Instructor
I'm a nomadic chef. If I'm not in a kitchen or traveling, I'm not happy. I've worked in kitchens, ran catering companies and educated people about food from Montana to New Zealand. I was raised on a farm, where I grew my own vegetables and learned the importance of eating locally. To me, food is all about sharing and connecting with people. I describe my food as fresh and freestyle with an emphasis on local ingredients. I'm a real chef, I'm a female and I know I can teach anyone — young or old, male or female — that you can do this if you're persistent.
Executive Chef – Butterfield 8
New York, N.Y.
I got into chefing because I was a caddy at a golf club and was horrible at it. They had an opening at the pool's snack bar, and by the next summer I was working in the main kitchen. I love coming up with new ways to make the foods my mom would make taste better. Her meatloaf was good, but to make a better meatloaf, wrap it in bacon and put all sorts of love inside it. I'm younger than most executive chefs, so my ideas are a little fresher and more creative than your average chef. A 40-year-old chef will make coq au vin and I'll make coq au vin for someone who's 25 and doesn't know what it is. I'll make it for the younger generation. I don't like to lose. Second place was invented to make the loser feel better.