Top Chef just finished up filming season 12 here in Boston, so we figured what better time to check in with one of our favorite contestants past, the very funny, super-sweet, and highly talented Stephanie Cmar.
The one-time sous chef at Barbara Lynch-owned No. 9 Park competed on not one, but two seasons of the show. After being ousted in episode one on her first try, she came back for a second season, where she cracked the competition’s top ten, becoming one of the final seven chefs on the show. Since returning home to Boston late last year, Cmar has set out on her own, opening a business you’ve probably heard about (and stalked) if you’re a local (if you haven’t heard about it, keep reading!).
Here, Stephanie tells us about her new gig, what it was like to be on TV, and more.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO COOKING?
I have always been a cook. When I was 15 or 16 I started working at The Muffin Shop in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and quickly became a short order cook, making eggs and sandwiches. I really loved it. I went to boarding school and when it came time to apply to colleges, I decided that I wanted to keep cooking. Being one of the first students to not want to go to a proper university, I think that I really threw the guidance counselor for a loop but they were supportive, as were my parents. So then…I just kept cooking.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE PRETTY GOOD AT IT?
I never really thought about whether I was good or bad. Cooking is subjective and I always strived to do my best. I have always pushed myself.
BEFORE GOING ON TOP CHEF YOU WORKED FOR BARBARA LYNCH. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HER?
I learned a lot from Chef. She and her team of talented chefs taught me how to make pastas, butcher fish and meats, plan menus and a lot about the financial side of owning restaurants as well.
HOW DID YOU END UP GOING ON TOP CHEF THE FIRST TIME?
Top Chef contacted Barbara, who then forwarded an email to Kristen [Kish, who went on to win season 10] and I.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO BACK FOR A SECOND TRY?
I had a fear that I was never going to have the self confidence that I had before I got kicked off season 10. It was purely for my own redemption.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE ON THE SHOW?
Being on the show was like a really fun adventure. Words could never describe the experiences that I had.
WHAT SORT OF IMPACT DID TOP CHEF HAVE ON YOUR CAREER?
Top Chef opened so many doors for me. It gave me freedom to experiment, freedom to try new things, and a platform to stand on.
RIGHT NOW, YOU’RE RUNNING A POP-UP DONUT BUSINESS, STACKED DONUTS. HOW’S IT GOING?
The donut business is pretty awesome! It all started so small and became so big, so quickly. My partner, Justin Burke-Samson and I are really enjoying seeing where it will take us. We went on a U.S. tour a few weeks back and had an amazing time!
DO YOU TWO HAVE ANY PLANS TO EXPAND THE BUSINESS?
We are looking to expand the business, but first we want to make sure that we are giving the people of Boston what they want. Right now we are trying to figure out what kind of establishment that we want, too.
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL STAY IN BOSTON?
I love Boston to much to ever leave.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CAREER?
Financial stability … and happiness.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN?
Don’t ever stop trying.