She carried that appreciation with her to her first restaurant kitchen job at Brennan’s in her native Houston, and later Chicago, where she earned Michelin stars as executive chef at Spiaggia. It was there that, as part of her training, she was sent to work alongside chefs in Rome, Florence, and Milan and fell hard for all things Italian. She went on to open Monteverde Restaurant and Pastificio, earning her a James Beard award in 2017.
Passionate as she is about pasta, the “Top Chef” finalist still takes her culinary cues first from the season’s bounty, and then thinks about what other ingredients — meat or plant-based — deserve their company, rather than the other way around. It’s as if they’re talking to her, she explains, beckoning her to choose them and give them a starring role on the plate.