As a “Top Chef” contestant, Kevin Gillespie became known for his red beard (now the inspiration for his restaurant group name), warm personality, and all-around likeability. He placed third in the show’s sixth season (losing to Michael Voltaggio), but no matter; he has since opened popular restaurants Gunshow in Atlanta and Revival in Decatur, Georgia.
Gillespie also offers consulting services through Red Beard Restaurants and opened Gamechanger at the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium. His most recent project is to open food halls in Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, later this year.
What did you learn from being on “Top Chef”?
I learned I can function on no sleep whatsoever. I learned to trust my instinctual cooking more than before. I used to rely a lot more on my training, but “Top Chef” taught me to go with my gut. Not everyone will like this, but I learned that delicious trumps everything else. The dish that tastes best wins.
How did the show help your career?
The show opens doors. Now, we all walk by opportunities every day, but you don’t always see them. Being on “Top Chef” makes you aware that those opportunities are there, and so you are better prepared to see them and take advantage of them. You still have to do the hard part, but “Top Chef” gives you a platform.
Did the show hurt your career in any way?
It did not hurt my career, but it did put a strain on my personal relationships. Going from anonymity to some form of celebrity overnight is tough. I learned to set boundaries.
You have to appreciate the fact that “celebrity” is a tangible version of knowing people care about what you are doing. They follow your career. But you have to understand that you have to be thoughtful about the people you interact with. I believe it is your obligation to meet those people’s expectations and make time for an autograph or photo with them.
Would you do the show all over again?
Probably not, but that’s more about where I am in my life right now.
“Top Chef” is very grueling. You need to be in a point in your life when you are in competition mode. I’m not there right now.