Head Chef: Cornell Hotel School alum wins in finale of ABC's The Taste

January 23, 2015 by Mark H. Anbinder

A 24-year-old alum of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration was the last chef standing after the latest season of "The Taste," a cooking competition show on ABC. Gabe Kennedy, who started in restaurant jobs as a teenager in Boulder before attending the Culinary Institute of America and then Cornell, wins a $100,000 prize and gets his own cooking web series on ABC.com.

Contestant Gabe Kennedy, right, takes advice from Chef Marcus Samuelsson on "The Taste." Photo courtesy of ABC.Contestant Gabe Kennedy, right, takes advice from Chef Marcus Samuelsson on "The Taste." Photo courtesy of ABC."The Taste," which bills itself as the search for "America's best undiscovered cook," began its third season in early December with an audition episode that narrowed the field to sixteen contestants. The home cooks and working chefs from around the country competed each week in front of a panel of superstar chefs: Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, and Marcus Samuelsson. 

The chefs each adopted a team of contestants to mentor over the course of the weekly series, which also featured guest judges and mentors, such as Chef Stephanie Izard of Chicago and Chef and Restaurateur Jonathan Waxman. Each dish produced by the contestants is judged blind.

Themed challenges each week dared the contestants to whip up dishes from their childhood, or "bring the heat" with extra-spicy plates, come up with "saints and sinners" pairings of fancy and pedestrian foods, or decide how to stretch the definition of "surf and turf."

Kennedy, who has been working as a private chef, got his start in the business as a sushi chef at Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar in Boulder, and cooked at Chef David Bouley's eponymous restaurant in lower Manhattan. He earned a series-record nine "gold stars" over the course of the competition, awarded when a dish is the favorite of the judges, and managed to stay ahead while also giving helpful advice to his fellow candidates and opponents.

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