Celebrity chefs and community leaders gathered Aug. 8, as Common Threads hosted a Top Chef-inspired event at Susan Miller Dorsey High School. The competition celebrated the launch of the school’s new STEM-focused program designed to blend  culinary and nutrition science education; bridge the health equity gap; and building exposure to career opportunities for students. 

The celebrity chefs included Inglewood’s very own Govind Armstrong, owner of Post and Beam restaurant and co-owner of the Table 8 restaurant. Armstrong was also a contestant on the Food Network series “Iron Chef America,” and a guest judge on the Bravo series “Top Chef.”  

Chef Shirley Chung was born and raised in Beijing China, but migrated to California at 17 for college and worked in the technology industry in Silicon Valley. She left the tech world to follow her passion for food, where she trained in classic French and Italian cuisine. Chung has worked and opened restaurants for Thomas Keller, Guy Savoy, and Mario Batali. She also opened CarneVino as Chef de Cuisine and competed in season 14 of “Top Chef,” where she was named runner-up. 

The other two chefs in the competition were Elizabeth Falkner and Stephanie Izard. Falkner has competed in several cooking competitions such as “Iron Chef America,” “The Next Iron Chef: Super Chef,” and recently “The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.” Falkner previously ran pastry shops Citizen Cake, and restaurant Orson, In San Francisco, before moving to Brooklyn and opening Krescendo at four different locations. 

Izard has also competed in several food competitions, winning  “Top Chef” in 2008 and “Iron Chef” in 2017. Izard was the recipient of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef in 2011 and Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2013. She is the Executive Chef and Owner of five Chicago Restaurants: Duck Duck Goat, Little Goat, Sugarcoat, Cabra, and Girl & the Goat, with the last two also opening in Los Angeles.

As the competition got underway, Armstrong highlighted the benefits of having healthy eating habits. 

“Access to healthy food contributes to healthy brain function, fuels children’s growing bodies and minds, and supports emotional and social development.” Armstrong said as he talked about how the top chef competition helps the kids in the kitchen. “Being able to see the next generation of chefs and inspire them is one of the many reasons why I love doing stuff like this.”

Armstrong hopes that Common Thread’s initiative is a success, because it will help many families not only health-wise but also help them get closer.

“I have three children, and we shop at our local farmer’s market every Sunday, so they know where their food is coming from,” he said. “In the kitchen, everybody’s assigned a job so everybody can contribute to the dish we have created. I hope this program goes far, as it can open many doors career-wise for students while providing a healthy lifestyle.”

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