North Miami Campus Alum Wins 'Top Chef'

Kevin Braga Top Chef Winner JWU AlumNorth Miami Campus alum Kevin Sbraga ’03 beat out stiff competition from New York City chefs Ed Cotton and Angelo Sosa to win the seventh season of the top-rated Bravo reality show. Sbraga’s winnings include a grand prize of $125,000, a feature in Food & Wine and a showcase at that magazine’s annual culinary event in Aspen, Colo.

The show’s finale took place in Singapore, where the final three cooked an Asian-inspired four-course meal for the Top Chef judges and a group of world-renowned chefs and critics, including Momofuku’s David Chang, Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, and Food & Wine’s Dana Cowin.

Sbraga had been a solid competitor throughout the season, but it wasn’t until the final episodes that he pulled into the lead. "He was under the radar," noted Ripert. "It’s like a marathon. You have the guys who go nuts, running, running, running, and the last mile, they walk. And then you have the guys (like Sbraga) who start sturdy and end strong."

Lead judge Tom Colicchio was wowed by Sbraga’s menu, which included pan-seared rouget with cuttlefish noodles, roasted duck with dumplings, caramelized bok choy in an orange coriander sauce, and a “Singapore Sling” fruit cup with coconut panna cotta. Noted Colicchio, "All three chefs cooked their hearts out at the finale, but everything came together for Kevin... [His] food was the best we’ve had in any finale — ever."

Such high praise was not lost on Sbraga. "The show was a very humbling experience," he said. "It taught me to become a better chef, to dig deep. My standards have changed. You expect more from yourself and others."

After graduating from JWU with a BS in Culinary Arts in 2003, Sbraga became chef de cuisine at Philadelphia's Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a stint that earned him a spot on Philadelphia Style’s Top 10 Chefs of 2007. In 2008, he won Best Meat Presentation at the Bocuse d'Or USA. Most recently, he served as executive chef at Rat’s at the Grounds for Sculpture, Stephen Starr’s Hamilton, NJ restaurant.

Sbraga's eponymous new restaurant, a 65-seat modern bistro, is opening soon in the Philadelphia area. "It's a dream come true," he said.