'Top Chef Canada' Gets First Non-Binary Contestant

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday May 28, 2021

The "Top Chef" reality TV brand is adding more diversity to its kitchen by introducing the franchise's first non-binary contestant, Out reports.

Chef Kym Nguyen is from London, England, where they "studied architecture and graphic design," the Vancouver Sun reported in an article about Canada's ninth season of the popular cooking competition show.

A little more than a decade ago, Nguyen relocated to Canada with their then-partner, looking forward to a change from the "really judgmental" society they had been living in. After working for eight years at a Toronto restaurant, Nguyen, who is "a self-trained chef," relocated again, this time to Vancouver, where they came out as non-binary. Nguyen is currently the sous chef at Vancouver Asian fusion restaurant PiDGiN, creating dishes with a unique flair.

"The way I cook and the way I plate my food is really artistic, and I get that from my background," Nguyen told the Vancouver Sun.

While contemplating whether to accept an offer to be on the show, Nguyen told the Sun, they had a discussion with the restaurant's owner, Brandon Grossutti. "We talked about the whole queer thing, and he was like, 'People are going to see you as this queer activist,'" Nguyen recalled. "'Are you ready for that?'"

The question occasioned some soul searching. Out quoted Nguyen as saying, "I have never viewed myself as a role model," but the decision to go forward with their participation on the show "made me realize that this is actually a great thing for the community. It lets so many people see who I am as a person, a chef, and what it means to be nonbinary."

The "Top Chef" franchise has not been shy about embracing diversity in the past. Out chef and cookbook author Gregory Gourdet, twice a competitor on "Top Chef," is currently a judge on "Top Chef: Portland." His New York Haitian restaurant, Kann, delayed by the pandemic, is slated to open next year.

Queer, San Francisco-based chef Melissa King achieved finalist status on "Top Chef Boston," then returned to the franchise six years later to win "Top Chef: All Stars LA." She also appears as a judge on "Top Chef: Portland."

And Kristen Kish, the champion of the tenth season of "Top Chef" in 2012, went on to write a cookbook, take on executive chef duties at Arlo Grey in Austin, and star as co-host on "Fast Foodies."

"Top Chef: Portland" currently has a lesbian contestant, Maria Mazon, who is the founder, owner and executive chef of BOCA Tacos y Tequila in Tucson, Arizona. Mazon shined bright in the eighth episode of the show's current season, Tucson Foodie noted, winning a "Restaurant Wars" challenge and heading up a victorious team of four contestants.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.