Recently while attending the Oprah Winfrey "Live Your Best Life Weekend " event in New York City I had an opportunity to sit down and spend a few minutes with the very charming Top Chef Season two finalist Chef Sam Talbot. Sam was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at age 11 was at the Oprah event as a spokesperson for Truvia who was also an event sponsor.
Like many other Top Chef contestants Sam's life has been an absolute whirl-wind of events, both positive and negative, since competing in Top Chef including television appearances on The Jimmy Fallon show and the Real Housewives of New York City. But through all of this, his focus on opening great restaurants, producing even greater food, and educating others about Type I Diabetes has been paramount.
Chef Talbot who was born in Ohio but raised in Charlotte, North Carolina began his culinary career working at Dean & DeLuca in Charlotte at age 16. Later he trained at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, but eventually left to spend time in the trenches alongside his mentor Chef James Burns of J. Bistro in Charleston. Interestingly, the reason Chef Talbot did not graduate from Johnson & Wales was an unfortunate accident in a mosh pit at a Beastie Boys concert which left him with a broken foot and unable to complete his studies at the time.
Chef Talbot eventually found his way to New York City where he worked as the executive chef for the Black Duck, and soon after opened the Williamsburgh Café in Brooklyn. Currently, he is the executive Chef of The Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York and is awaiting the opening of his next restaurant in the trendy new Mondrian Hotel in New York City this fall.
Keep reading to find out what else I learned about this Top Chef…
Q. When were you diagnosed with Diabetes? What were the signs or symptoms?
A. I was diagnosed at age 11, my uncle had Diabetes as a child so my mom knew exactly what signs to look for. Frequent urination, dry mouth, and I was real lethargic, all the typical signs that you read or hear about.
Q. How does Diabetes influence your work if any? What are the challenges?
A. Diabetes influences everything I do. I've always been very careful to live the healthiest lifestyle that I can and I try to have that reflect my cooking as well. I cook seasonally, using whole foods. I'm a big supporter of the whole farm to table movement that's happening in this country and making good food that's simple to prepare. Most of my dishes only contain about 4 or 5 ingredients. I don't really see having Diabetes as a challenge in my cooking. I suppose if I was a pastry chef then it would be a little different.
Q. Unfortunately I didn't watch much of Top Chef Season 2, tell me a little about that experience.
A. Well I did very well, I came in third at the end. The experience was a real eye-opener, it taught me how to take criticism without me compromising my cooking philosophy, and obviously its opened many professional doors for me.
Q. What cooking advice do you have for parents with diabetic children?
A. I'm actually working on a book right now for parents with diabetic children. But the best advice I can give them is to keep things simple, use lots of fresh ingredients, the best that you can afford, and get the kids involved in the cooking process from purchasing the food to preparing it in the kitchen.
Q. What other projects are you working on?
A. Well besides the book, I have the new restaurant opening in the fall, and even possibly more television. But the restaurants are my number one focus, no one wants to read a book or watch a show by a chef whose food in the kitchen is not top notch.
Thank you, Chef Talbot, for taking the time to speak with us and letting us know what you've been up to post Top Chef.