Chicago Woman To Compete On Bravo's ‘Top Chef'

Fifth Season Debuts Nov. 12

Chicago has a chance to claim two consecutive winners on Bravo's Top Chef.

Executive Chef Radhika "Rad" Desai of Wicker Park's Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge (1324 N. Milwaukee Ave.), will be Chicago's only contestant among the newest crop of 17 chefs on Top Chef: New York.

The fifth season will debut on Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. Last year's winner, Stephanie Izard, also lives and works in Chicago.

Radhika, known as "Rad," was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a first generation Indian in the United States, she was brought up with a strong sense of her Indian heritage, and she says her parents remain her true inspiration for her career as a chef.

Rad graduated from Ohio State University in 2003 with a degree in Environmental Sciences, and worked as a Park Ranger in Death Valley National Park for one year while cooking in her desert trailer.

After the one-year stint, she decided that cooking was her true passion and enrolled in the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago where she received her culinary degree in 16 months.

After staging at restaurants in Cincinnati and Dubai, she came back to Chicago to work as the executive sous chef at Vermilion. At the age of of 28 she landed her current executive chef position.

"Rad is a blessing to us as well as our little nocturnal cafe," said Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge Owner, Carl Anderson. "She truly is the heart of our restaurant."

At Between Boutique Cafe & Lounge, Rad uses the small plate concept to experiment with exotic spices and flavorful combinations, which allows guests to taste a variety of food without being overwhelmed in a single dining experience. Her popular signature dishes include: Lobster Trifecta, lobster empanadas, lobster and bacon mac and cheese and lobster cakes and Duck-Duck Goose, leg of duck with sweet potato pancakes, gooseberry jam and orange black pepper sauce.

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