Meet Evelyn Garcia, the one hometown contestant on the wildly fashionable meals present

Evelyn Garcia’s life is about to alter.

When Season 19 of Bravo’s “Prime Chef” competitors begins March 3, the 32-year-old Houston chef might be launched to a doubtlessly history-making run on meals tv’s largest stage. The chef competitors, this yr set in opposition to Houston’s melting pot meals scene, is thought for making culinary superstars of its contestants. When Daybreak Burrell was a “Prime Chef” finalist final yr, the Houston chef rapidly turned a fan favourite and noticed her profile rise to a degree she might solely dream of.

This week Garcia begins her personal journey into the realm of meals world fame as one among 15 contestants of “Prime Chef” vying for the title and a $250,000 purse.

As the one Houston chef on the 14-episode sequence, Garcia stated she felt the strain to succeed on a number of fronts. As a Latina (her dad and mom are from Mexico and El Salvador). As lady in an business nonetheless grappling with kitchen equality. As a small enterprise proprietor. And as a local Houstonian.

The latter may be most seen to followers of the hit present that can function prime native cooks as visitor judges and challenges that can showcase the town’s wealth of culinary wealth and variety together with Asian, Nigerian, barbecue, Tex-Mex and Gulf Coast fare. Whereas Garcia could have a perceived home-team benefit, the Houston-set challenges offered added inevitable stress.

“I used to be like, man, I’ve to symbolize my metropolis. I’ve to make them proud,” she stated. “I felt I stayed true to myself and that was my purpose.”

Garcia’s purpose of changing into knowledgeable chef began early. As a senior at Cypress Ridge Excessive Faculty, she was a member of the Cy-Truthful Culinary Academy, a program for superior culinary college students. After graduating in 2007 she set off for the celebrated Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, graduating in 2010. She quickly discovered herself within the kitchen of superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s buzzy Spice Market restaurant in Manhattan, a job that cemented her curiosity in Southeast Asian delicacies. From there she discovered work on the Singaporean restaurant Masak and at Kin Store, a contemporary Thai restaurant run by “Prime Chef” Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle, each in New York.

Garcia returned to Houston in mid-2016 and for a number of years hosted pop-ups as she labored towards having her personal restaurant the place she might indulge her curiosity in Southeast Asian delicacies. After a brief stint on the now shuttered Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Manufacturing facility (within the former Beaver’s location), Garcia opened Kin, an Asian meals stall that was one of many authentic distributors of Politan Row eating corridor that opened in late 2019 in Rice Village. When Politan Row closed in 2020, one of many native restaurant victims of the pandemic, Garcia created Kin HTX, a catering firm and line of Southeast Asian-inspired condiments she operates with accomplice chef Henry Lu.

“Prime Chef” recruited her final yr — she thinks 2021 “Prime Chef” contestants from Houston, Burrell and chef Sasha Grumman, each pals, have been instrumental — at a time when Garcia stated she was prepared for a recent begin and new alternatives.

“It got here at time for me,” stated Garcia including that she, like so many cooks in pandemic limbo, was able to rapidly pivot. “It occurred at simply the suitable time.”

When “Prime Chef” introduced in September 2021 that the brand new season can be shot in Houston, it gave the town’s meals season a purpose to have a good time. On the time, nevertheless, Bravo hadn’t named the chef contestants, which left Houston questioning if one among its personal toques can be on the present (the contestants weren’t introduced till January). However as filming commenced all through the autumn in Houston, it turned obvious that Garcia was the only H-City contestant.

Whereas Garcia has had meals tv expertise — in 2014 she was the profitable chef on an episode of Meals Community’s “Chopped” competitors — “Prime Chef” is probably the most prestigious title in actuality tv’s culinary realm.

“I don’t know if I felt that a lot strain in my life,” Garcia stated. With every week’s on-air challenges got here the dreaded concern “this may very well be my final cook dinner,” she stated.

However after years of watching the present, and cheering on Burrell and Grumman final yr, Garcia stated she was aware of the judges’ oft-repeated recommendation for cooks to stay true to themselves, their fashion of cooking, and their very own chef internal voice.

“The purpose is to attempt to get out of your head and cook dinner what you need to cook dinner and what feels proper to you,” she stated.

Whereas it’s not recognized how far Garcia advances within the competitors, simply being on the present might be a significant increase to her profession. She’s prepared for the publicity to mild up her Kin HTX enterprise in addition to her first unbiased restaurant venture with Lu known as Jun by Kin anticipated to open later this yr.

For an business nonetheless leaping hurdles throughout the pandemic, Garcia stated she hopes the present will pump up restaurant enterprise each nationally and inside Houston.

“Ultimately this [pandemic] will finish, and the business will come again and be stronger,” she stated. “We’re nonetheless in survival mode and this can be a ray of sunshine.”

The “Prime Chef” course of not solely toughened her however introduced out an understanding of herself, Garcia stated. “I discovered how robust I actually am,” she stated. “I’m so much stronger than I believed.”

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