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Meet Special Power50 Honoree Kristen Kish: The New LGBTQ Chef Changing the Culinary Game

Kristen Kish, Top Chef, Power 50

It’s been six years since Kristen Kish was crowned as the winner of Top Chef’s tenth season and, after years of traveling and honing her skills, the queer chef finally set roots down over the summer with her own restaurant in Austin, Texas. After a fortuitous partnership was presented to her the queer culinary dynamo decided she was ready for a new challenge and ready to tell her story through her craft. Out caught up with Kish to dish about the life of an entrepreneur and the power that comes from accepting every facet of yourself.

Related | The Power 50: 2018

OUT: Your restaurant at The LINE Hotel in Austin, Arlo Grey,  just opened in June, what have these last few months been like for you?

Kristen Kish: Growth-inducing. I’m learning patience, learning how to take it easy on myself a little bit, finding a balance, and being ok with work and life and what all of it means.

All of the challenges have been incredibly gratifying and there are so many moments throughout the day where I’m so proud of everyone around me.

Was this something that had been on your mind for a while?

I didn’t even know I wanted to open up a restaurant. I was traveling and cooking in really cool places all the time and this was a whole different ball game. But I felt like it was time – I was appropriately scared, and I went in headfirst taking on that good, challenging, sleepless life and taking it all in and just accepting it.

What finally changed?

I was approached by the Sydell Group, which has hotels all over the world, and their culinary standpoint is to put a lot of focus on their food and beverage program. It’s a huge part of our culture and they’re not just putting restaurants into their hotels but putting in a place for people to tell their stories.

Is being a powerful queer woman part of your story?

I’ll be completely honest, Top Chef kind of put all this stuff out there: that I’m Asian American, that I’m adopted, that I was relatively young when everything started – and then I came out and started living my life as an openly gay woman.

Somteimes I forget [about all the pieces]. I responsibly forget. I don’t lead with any of it but I don’t hide who I am. I take it all together, encompassing all of who I am, encompassing my entirety as opposed to just one aspect of it. Without one part being open and honest nothing else falls into place.

To me, being powerful means being genuinely proud of who you are, owning who you are, and accepting any and all pieces that make up your total individuality.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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