By David Levinson

A leading chef and fearsome competitor on the Food Network's Iron Chef America, Traci Des Jardins pulls no punches'especially when it comes to food. The executive chef and co-owner of San Francisco restaurants Jardini're, Mijita, and Acme Chophouse, Des Jardins has culinary expertise and passion in equal measure.

Appearing on the top-rated reality show has catapulted her into a whole new stratosphere, though straight white men still tend to dominate top-notch kitchens. Says Des Jardins: 'No one cares about your sexuality. I'm proud of who I am, but do I need to go around broadcasting it? It's about the food. Besides, it wouldn't matter anyway. There're lots of us in the kitchen!'

The new season of Iron Chef America kicks off Sunday, Nov. 18, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.