For years, Top Chef has been a platform for culinary professionals to show their stuff and jump-start their careers. Jeremy Ford won Season 13 of the competition and went on to open Stubborn Seed in Miami Beach, and chefs Jeff McInnis, Janine Booth, Kenny Gilbert, and Nina Compton are but a few of the show’s contestants who have garnered major success despite not winning the coveted title.
27 Restaurant & Bar’s chef de cuisine, 29-year-old Pablo Lamon, is the newest member of Miami’s exclusive Top Chef alumni.
A native of Buenos Aires, Lamon left Argentina at the age of 23 to toil in kitchens around the world before settling in Miami. He worked at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room and Jeremy Ford’s Stubborn Seed before beginning his tenure at 27 Restaurant & Bar in Miami Beach.
Lamon was chosen to compete on Top Chef after applying through the casting website. He endured culinary ups and downs during filming before being ousted in the dreaded “Restaurant Wars” episode. But he says filming gave him unique opportunities he never would have experienced otherwise. “I had Christmas dinner with Eric Ripert. That was the most important moment for me and one that I only got to experience because I worked hard.”
Lamon shares that he never would have been able to make it on the show without the support of his colleagues at 27 Restaurant & Bar. “We filmed for around five weeks, and I had to have a conversation with my executive chef and sous-chef that I would be gone for so long, but I got nothing but support from them. They were all happy about my achievement.”
The chef says filming the show was “like a big dream” with every day a surprise. “From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you have no idea what’s going to happen. All the moments you see on TV are real. The producers wake you up with cameras in your face, and you generally have one hour to get ready to do whatever challenge they’ve chosen. Sometimes there was travel involved to another city or even another country. Sometimes filming ended at 6 p.m., and sometimes it ended at 3 a.m.”
Lamon also says the biggest challenge — not being allowed to have a cell phone — resulted in the biggest payoff. “At first not having a phone was pretty tough, but it turned out to be amazing. Instead of looking at your phone, [the cast] talked to each other and learned about each other and became friends.”
Overall, he says, the experience was amazing. “Everything is taken from someone’s fantasy. You’re hanging out with chefs at this amazing house and have access to the best ingredients and the best equipment. It’s everything a chef could ever want.”
Though the chef says he’s disappointed he was voted off the show, he realizes it’s just part of the competition — and life. “You have good days and bad days, but I’m pretty proud of how far I made it in the competition. I’m leaving with a good taste in my mouth.”
27 Restaurant & Bar. 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach; 305-531-2727; thefreehand.com.