“Chef Joe” is back! Tune in this Thursday (March 19) to cheer on UC Davis alumnus Joe Sasto ’10 as he competes in the 17th season of Top Chef.
In a phone interview with Dateline UC Davis, Sasto shared his enthusiasm for the upcoming “all-star” season, which brings back 15 former winners, fan-favorites and frontrunners. “Everybody’s incredibly talented,” he said. “It will make for a great competition.”
SEE CHEF JOE ON TV, SOCIAL MEDIA
- WHAT: Top Chef season 17 premiere
- WHEN:10 p.m. on Thursday (March 19)
- NETWORK: Bravo
From the chef's perspective
If you follow Joe Sasto on Instagram, you know that aside from the artistic shots of delicious food, each picture is accompanied with witty plays-on-words, helpful tips and tidbits of culinary wisdom.
When asked about the thought behind his captions, he doesn’t take full credit. “My better half comes up with most of them,” Sasto said, referring to his girlfriend, Bella Bennett.
Sasto, who “went in blind” the first time around, said he now knows more about what to expect.
“I had never seen the show before,” he said, about his first stint on season 15 of the hit TV series. “It was surprising how hard the mental game was — not really knowing what to expect next. It’s not so much a cooking competition as it is a mental competition.”
For those who have never seen it, Top Chef pits chefs against one another in culinary challenges. Each season is in a different host city or state, these locations serving as the inspiration for the challenges. For example, Sasto’s last time on Top Chef was in Colorado; one cooking competition involved camping out near the mountains and creating a meal using camping equipment and ingredients native to Colorado.
The upcoming season will be in Los Angeles, which is sure to produce a variety of creative themes for the contestants.
When asked what he was looking forward to this time around, Sasto emphasized his eagerness not only to cook — “If there’s a challenge surrounding pasta, I’ll definitely take that one,” said the confident pasta-maker — but also to interact with the other chefs. He is excited to be “cooking alongside some of my peers and people I’ve looked up to for years.”
In particular, he mentioned his enthusiasm about working with season 12’s Gregory Gourdet and season 16’s Eric Adjepong. “I’ve always wanted to cook with Greg — and eat his food,” he added.
Sasto also values the connections and friendships that came out of his experience on the show. “It has been a great tool to connect with people on a personal and professional level.”
Regarding his time at UC Davis, the chef was quick to compliment his two years working at the Coffee House. “A lot of people underestimate their time there,” Sasto said. “It will always hold a special place in my heart.”
It was at the CoHo that Sasto gained experience that still helps his career. While he remembers it fondly, he also recalled the tension among coworkers that becomes inevitable in a high-stress environment. “I always think back to mediating a lot of the interactions and disagreements between employees,” he said. “It’s a valuable skill to be able to do that.”
The relationship — and tension — between his career and his education at UC Davis is another connection he values.
“I was afraid to go into cooking because I had a diploma,” Sasto said. “It’s not the most sought-after career path, but it’s what I love, and I don’t regret it for a second.”
Sasto’s overarching advice to all? “Don’t be afraid to pursue what you love.”
Chloe Archambault, Office of Strategic Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org