WINNER!: Darius Peacock
Executive Chef, Exceptional Taste Catering
Growing up in the projects, I was never meant to be where I am today. When I said I wanted to go to culinary school, people thought I was crazy for leaving to do something other than a blue collar job. I still can hardly believe that I've worked for corporate America and now I own a successful catering business, Exceptional Taste. The idea that food has allowed me to live in a neighborhood where I can own a home, feed my family and drive my own car still blows my mind. I'm definitely a big teddy bear in the kitchen but when it's time to compete, I'm not above doing a little trash talking.
Executive Chef and Owner of Catering by Jonathan
After 22 of working in other people's kitchens, I am now the owner and executive chef of Catering by Jonathan. After flipping burgers at McDonalds and various jobs at hotels and steakhouses, I was sick of making money for other people and coming home with pennies in my pockets. My culinary style is American with French and Southern twists. I love to take two things that you'd never put together and wow people with an amazing dish. There is no way I'm going to be chopped. I'm the Kobe Bryant of the culinary world. I won't stop until I have the biggest catering company in the world.
Executive Chef/Owner – Kuma Inn
New York, N.Y.
I am from NYC — born and raised. My mom is from the Philippines and my Dad is from Thailand and that is the kind of food I grew up with. I cook food that is very close to my heart and my heritage. I graduated college as a music major, but eventually I decided to quit and enroll in culinary school before I got to the point of "should've, could've, would've." To succeed in this business, you have to love what you do, and I love what I do. I like to think I am the guy who gets the job done.
Executive Chef - Talay
Harlem, New York City, N.Y.
I worked in kitchens during college when I was trying to figure out my life, until the chefs took notice of me and suggested culinary school. After graduating, I worked in kitchens in Portland, New York City and DC before I decided I wanted to do my own thing and opened up Talay. We create my interpretation of the traditional Southeast Asian dishes my mom made growing up — in fact, I call her often with recipe questions. When I tell people I was born in Laos, they usually say, "where is that?" We have the best of Thai and Vietnamese flavors. I'm definitely a competitive person. I grew up in Kansas. People don't understand New York mentality there — it's cutthroat. In order to win, you can't overstep your boundaries or go out of your comfort zone. I do what I know and do it well.