Adrienne Cheatham Gets Real About Life After Top Chef - Exclusive

Since making it to the finals of Season 15 of "Top Chef," Adrienne Cheatham has hit the ground running. The formally trained chef, who has spent time working with masters like Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson, has published a cookbook, started a dinner series, and made television appearances, like her recent feature on the newest season of "Selena + Chef." But if you want to actually get a taste of her impressive culinary chops, it's going to be harder than getting a reservation.

Rather than opening a restaurant after "Top Chef," Cheatham started her own exclusive dinner series, SundayBest. The monthly gathering in New York City features a hand-crafted, unique, elaborate menu paired with good company that's been known to include a few celebs from time to time. It's a creative outlet for Cheatham, who claims she didn't see a good way into the restaurant world after competing on the show.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Cheatham opened up about her career path after "Top Chef," the roadblocks she faced along the way, and the biggest takeaways she got from the experience.

Opening a restaurant wasn't really an option after Top Chef

While it seems like making it to the final rounds of a prestigious competition like "Top Chef" would mean a well-paved path to opening a restaurant, that's not always the case — it wasn't for Adrienne Cheatham. She told us that "even when Top Chef first aired" she "couldn't get investors to open a restaurant." She added that she did get offers, but not the right one. 

"I have had a few offers to work with different restaurant groups or partners, contracts to open a restaurant or be part of a larger building that's bringing in chefs to do different concepts ... but I haven't found one that I felt good about," she explained.

As she put it, "People were like, 'Wow, you have an incredible resume ... Why don't you come and work for my restaurant group as a chef?'... people were not like, 'Hey, I'd love to pay to open a restaurant with you.'" She admitted, "There are some chefs who apparently that happens to, but I wasn't one of them." But Cheatham noted that there are other contestants who've ended up in her position — looking to pursue a career in the restaurant industry but ending up having to go in another direction.

She gained valuable lessons and friends from Top Chef

Adrienne Cheatham also acknowledged that there are many "Top Chef" contestants who simply choose not to go into the restaurant business. Ultimately, her decision to start her SundayBest Dinner Series was personal. "I love restaurant life ... but after I left Red Rooster and I was taking some time off, I wanted to give myself greater flexibility." 

These days, she's able to do it all. "I have one private client that I cook for sometimes. And between the pop-up, the cookbook, working, doing a little more television stuff lately, it keeps me very busy."

In the meantime, Cheatham has "Top Chef" largely to thank for helping her get to where she is today. "It really helps you see yourself in a new way," she said of the experience, adding, "It helped me get out of my comfort zone. So it really pushed me forward in a way that I wouldn't have gotten, if I hadn't done it."

On top of "the confidence, the exposure, and the fun," Cheatham said she "met some really awesome people who I'm still friends with today," which is something she values as a chef. "Being in a kitchen, sometimes you have more in common with your co-workers than you do with your friends and family ... It was a great experience for that," she said.

Catch Adrienne Cheatham on the fourth season of "Selena + Chef," now streaming on HBO Max.