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Chrissy Camba is lone Chicago toque on new ‘Top Chef’

Top Chef - Seas10

Top Chef - Season 10

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‘TOP CHEF’

Season 10 starts at 9 p.m. Wednesday on Bravo

Updated: December 8, 2012 6:26AM



Bravo serves up its 10th installment of “Top Chef” Wednesday, with 21 hopefuls trying to impress the judges for the chance to become official contestants this season in Seattle.

Only one of the would-be top toques hails from a Chicago kitchen: Chrissy Camba, 31, a Hoffman Estates native who lives in Lincoln Square.

It’s a far cry from last season, when an unprecedented six chef-testants represented the city.

“I’m kind of bummed out,” Camba said about being the lone Chicagoan. “It adds a lot of pressure.”

Camba has a lot on her plate these days. The former head chef at Andersonville’s Vincent will soon be running the kitchen at Bar Pastoral, 2947 N. Broadway, slated to open Monday in Lake View. The new eatery is an offshoot of Pastoral, the artisan cheese, bread and wine shop with three locations in the city. One of Bar Pastoral’s specialties will be Camba’s culinary passion, charcuterie.

“I love making pates and terrines and sausages,” she said. “One day I want to have my own charcuterie shop.”

Camba, who’s of Filipino descent, used to think she wanted to be a doctor. The daughter of a nurse, she graduated with a biology degree from Loyola University Chicago.

“When we did study group at my apartment I would be the only person not studying,” she said. “I’d be in the kitchen cooking.”

A friend of a friend helped her get an unpaid staging gig at HB Home Bistro so Camba could get a taste of what it’s like to be a chef. She also has done other brief, unpaid gigs at a long list of Chicago’s finest restaurants, including Alinea, Blackbird, Boka, Avenues and Naha.

While working in HB’s kitchen she met her boyfriend, Ashlee Aubin, who, like Camba, opted not to pursue an advanced degree (in law school) in favor of a cooking career. He’s now a chef at Wood on the North Side.

Looking back, Camba can see that cooking had always intrigued her. When she had to do an oral report in front of her high-school classmates, she chose to demonstrate how to make an omelet.

Little did she know she’d one day have to do the same thing — make an omelet — on national TV for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, a new addition to the “Top Chef” judges’ table.

In the season premiere, contestants are divided up and sent to compete in the restaurants of the show’s chef judges: Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson and Puck. They must demonstrate a mastery of the basics, like making an omelet, soup or salad, before being awarded a chef’s jacket and an invitation to Seattle.

Whipping up an omelet might not seem like much of a challenge, but Camba insists everything on “Top Chef” is a lot harder than it looks from the comfort of your couch.

“When I watched the show I was that person who was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s all they can make? They had 30 minutes!’ ” Camba said. “Well, when you’re actually there, 30 minutes feels like 10 seconds.”



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