“Maybe that’s part of the reason that I avoided going into that side of it, because I always thought women and minorities were in the behind-the-scenes roles. I never thought of them in the visible part of the restaurant, like the general manager, executive chef, or the person who gets all the credit and accolades,” Cheatham says. “I embrace it now. As awkward and weird as it still is sometimes, it’s also really cool.”
Cheatham’s status as a force to be reckoned with was solidified in 2017, when she competed on the 15th season of “Top Chef.” True to her less-grandstanding, more-action approach, Cheatham emerged as a dark horse, quietly outlasting most of the field before finishing second to Joe Flamm.
Now living in Harlem, Cheatham continues to eschew the typical chef trajectory. She’s granted herself the time and space to flex her creative muscles through SundayBest. Held about once a month at varying locations around New York City, SundayBest dinners are intimate—only 12–20 guests—and feature dishes inspired by Southern cuisine and soul food. She’s also developing new partnerships and collaborating on Schwan's Chef Collective, a group she first joined in 2016 that develops healthy school lunch programs.