Season 13 Finalists Reveal Their Culinary Mentors

Soon it will be the job of Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to mentor these hopefuls through the competition. But here's who brought the contestants to this point.

Addie's Mentor: Martha Stewart

I would say for sure Martha Stewart. I worked for her for a few years. But before even working for her, I certainly idolized her as a chef. I think a lot of people when they think about her, they think about her as a homemaker or a glorified housewife who did cool things and built an empire. But I always looked up to her as it began with food. Her first book was about making food for her home. She's always been someone I looked up to and I respect — before I met her, before I worked for her. And then [doing that] just confirmed it all. I think she doesn’t get enough credit. She did not just start a happy-homemaking company; she really built a culinary and entertaining empire.

Amy Hasn't Had a Mentor — Yet

I’m a wide-open book. Neither of my parents cooked that much. I’ve always worked in restaurants but never in a culinary capacity. I just taught myself how to cook, and it turns out I’m not bad at it.

Blake's Mentor: A Chef from Culinary School

I would say so far my biggest culinary mentor has been the first chef that I had in culinary school. He worked with a lot of the best chefs in New York, and he really took me from at-home cook to professional chef. He taught me everything I need to know about knife skills and fabrication, all of the really intricate things that you don’t learn just cooking at home. And to this day, as I cook I hear him yelling in my ear, like: "Follow the bone. Follow the bone." Or like, "Make it beautiful." And so he really taught me a lot about how to be professional in the kitchen. 

Caodan's Mentor: Her Husband

Ever since I met my husband, he has a completely different outlook on food and what he enjoys the most. And I’ve actually come to learn that it broadened my ideas of cooking and food. And so I honestly feel like he’s been my greatest mentor in the past few years. Because we have this thing where we're like, "What would Zack do?" because I’m too out there sometimes. I try to make it too special, whereas he wants to connect, an average person trying to get into food. And so it has really helped me find that balance.

Cory's Mentor: His Grandmother

My greatest culinary mentor I just lost this past May. [She] was my grandmother, and I know a lot of people tell that story of being raised in their grandmother’s kitchen, or something like that. I was actually raised by my grandparents. So, I was taught the value of food and of the time spent around the table by my grandparents, so truly I owe my sense of hospitality and sensibility in the kitchen to her.

David's Mentor: His Parents

Probably my parents.  My parents, both my mom and dad, were chefs growing up. So, they used to always take me to work with them. I was a badass, mischievous kid, running around, doing stuff I shouldn’t be doing. But that’s the admiration they got from the people they cooked for, and just those smells, those aromas growing up — I was always around food. And it kind of clicked when I moved to Atlanta, seeing a commercial for Le Cordon Bleu. It said "Le Cordon Bleu. Realize your culinary dream." And I’ve always cooked my entire life, but I don’t think, up until that moment, that I knew ... that me being a chef was what I would do. But both my mom and dad, they have been great chefs, taught me my basics at a young age, and so I’d definitely say they’re my mentors.

Jason's Mentor: Food Network Chefs

I have three: Guy Fieri, Jeff Mauro and Nancy Fuller. ... I watch them all on TV, but they are three that I can really relate to.

Matthew's Mentors: Tyler Florence and Beau MacMillan

I feel like it was Tyler Florence. His style of food kind of resembles mine, where it’s very technique driven and it’s extremely elevated and fine dining, and yet he has American approach to it where he really makes it accessible to people. And he’s been on the network for 21 years. And the reason I say him and not one of the others is I’ve had the most face-to-face interaction with him, and even the other day he was like, "You remind me of me." And Bobby said that too, so it’s very exciting, cause it’s kind of like you are looking at someone and you’re like, "Oh, that’s a little bit of a picture of what my life could look like if I continue on a positive, consistent path,." Also, Chef Beau MacMillan taught me so much. He took my cooking to a whole new level and really embedded proper technique that stepped up my game in a big way. 

Nancy's Mentor: Alton Brown

It has to be Alton Brown. ... I think I’ve watched every episode, every rerun. I love the guy because he’s so down to earth and the way he inspires other. And I had the opportunity to tell him that. I don’t think I’ve missed a show.

Rusty's Mentor: Many Chefs

There's so many answers to that question because there’s it’s either the culinary part or would it be the personality part? Because both of them are so me. ... On the culinary part, it would have to be someone like Paul Bocuse, the Godfather, or, even to this day, Jonathan Waxman is one of my favorite and a chef that I look up to. When it comes to personality, it’d have to be the Galloping Gourmet back in the day — the French guy that got half-drunk and ... got on camera and burnt things, and it was OK. Now a days, with personality and also cooking, is Emeril, I have so much respect for him when he did the live [show]. And that’s what I want. I need an audience to feed off of, so I’ve had mad respect for him.

Suzanne's Mentor: Giada De Laurentiis

I would say Giada. I think Bobby’s great, and he’s a genius, but I think that Giada — she loves her culture and she loves her food, and she expresses it through those entrees she makes. So, her, because I love my culture and I love where I come from, and I love food and family.

Toya's Mentor: Chef Ruth Varisco

That’s my professor. I was a delinquent in school, so I’ve always had mothers away from home like, "Toya go to class." That kind of thing. But Chef Ruth Varisco was my professor, and right before I dropped out, I think two times in particular I remember her saying the same thing. She said, “Inside of you, there’s child Toya, and child Toya needs to go away and not come back.” And I would be like, "Yeah, whatever." But now, from a mature standpoint, I know what she meant — that I just wasn’t ready. She’s — I can’t think of a better word than this — bad-ass. She was a chemist first. She’s a beast, and she’s no more than 4’11”, but she’s a powerhouse.

Trace's Mentor: His Southern Relatives

It's probably going to be the gaggle of Southern women in my family. Grandmothers, aunts, my own mother — they’re all wonderful cooks, and they all have their own tips and techniques that they’ve instilled in me.

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