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Latin America’s First-Ever Top Chef Upsets the Competition

Undaunted by gender stereotypes, Carolina Erazo blew the competition out of the kitchen.

Top Chef/Official

Last night in Chile, the winner of Latin America's first-ever Top Chef competition was announced. Carolina Erazo, the chef at Santiago's Donosti, managed to beat out chefs whose resumes include stints at El Bullí, El Celler de Can Roca, and Boragó, amongst others. She also happened to be one of only four women competing for the title, marking a huge win for female chefs in Latin America.

Women don't belong in the kitchen because "their nerves get the best of them, they cry, and thus their female hormones spoil the food." — Top Chef Judge Pamela Fidalgo

Erazo's win comes just a week after head judge Pamela Fidalgo — herself a woman — said women don't belong in the kitchen because "their nerves get the best of them, they cry, and thus their female hormones spoil the food." Fidalgo rarely veered far from the male competitors, often showing clear favoritism over their female counterparts. It goes without saying that Erazo was not the clear favorite to win the competition.

Erazo's win is important not only because of her gender, but also because she upset a field teeming with talent that included Cristian Sierra, Juan Morales, and Pilar Astorga, all of whom, at least on paper, should have been the obvious front runners. However, it seems that Erazo, with a simpler pedigree and a higher degree of humility, was able to take the judges' weekly critiques to heart, and apply the changes week in and week out.

In a 12-week competition where time limits were extremely constrained and male competitors were clearly expected to win, Carolina Erazo has set a new standard for professionalism and feminism in the gastronomy boom happening in South America right now.

Top Chef Chile differed wildly from the original U.S. version. Episodes, with commercials, often clocked in at two hours or more, featured three different challenges, and were assessed by a panel of especially meddlesome judges. Each challenge appeared rushed, and the results were often less than appealing. Nevertheless, a winner was crowned, and more than a few chefs at prominent restaurants in Chile will undoubtedly be looking back at their performance and wondering how a woman, with all of her "raging hormones," could have fared so well.

— Patrick Hieger

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