Award-winning chef, entrepreneur, and global trailblazer Kristen Kish will travel the world, highlighting people, places, and cultures in remote restaurants. Join Chef Kish hosting her new series Restaurants at the End of the World, premiering March 21 on National Geographic and streaming March 22 on Disney+.
Chef Kish is best known for winning Season 10 of Top Chef and her culinary artistry in Netflix’s Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend and Tru TV’s Fast Foodies. She travels to Panama, Norway, Brazil, and North Haven Island, Maine in the series to go behind the scenes. Viewers meet the people keeping food on the table in the most remote outposts on Earth, where resources and supplies can sometimes be limited. Food and Beverage Magazine caught up with the international chef about her latest culinary adventure.
How was the series developed?
Chef Kristen Kish: It all started in 2019 with Julia Zak from Cinetic. She approached me about a food storytelling idea involving travel and people. The pandemic of 2020 halted it for some time, but we picked it back up, fully forming a pitch along with Brian Oaks and Christine O’Malley. Long story short, National Geographic ended up wanting it and me. National Geographic did their magic and fully curated Restaurants at the End of the World to be something we would all become very excited about debuting this year.
What can viewers expect while watching the show?
Chef Kristen Kish: The show is about going to remote locations, where I explore what it takes to run a restaurant off the beaten path. I know what it is like to operate a restaurant and cook in all kinds of kitchens, but I will visit remote ones cut off from supply chains, delivery means, and the luxuries of efficiency. This is all new to me. But, through the chefs and people running these restaurants, their suppliers, and the community, I learn what it takes to put food on the table night after night.
How do you feel about hosting another series?
Chef Kristen Kish: While this show is not the first hosting role, at this point in my life, with the experience I have garnered and my understanding of what more I want to learn, hosting Restaurants at the End of the World is coming at an optimal time. I was ready for it; my curiosity is at its peak, and I had a reason to do it at this time. My motivation is not about food, travel, or cooking specifically. It is about exploring what my life might have become instead of my life today. As an adoptee, I wonder where else in this world I could have ended up. I find a lot of drive and empathy in allowing that to fuel my passion for travel, food, and people.
How has growing up in the Midwest influenced your cooking?
Chef Kristen Kish: The Midwest, specifically how I grew up, is all about comfort foods, casseroles, and nothing overly fancy. I grew up with delicious food but limited in some respect. I always come back to comfort and connecting the dots of my chef side, the skill of cooking, and understanding how I want people to feel through food.
Food, for me, comes with a sense of place and storytelling. So, I like to cook that way and tend to gravitate toward the same thing as a guest and consumer.
What was it like to cook and win Top Chef? How did this change your life and career path?
Chef Kristen Kish: Top Chef was really difficult; the overall experience is meant to challenge you. I was a ball of nerves, but I learned what it was like to trust myself and know that I could do it, which ultimately shaped my personal and professional life. Post Top Chef winning certainly comes with its benefits and notoriety, and I am forever grateful for the experience, having been encouraged by my mentor, and the opportunities that have come my way because of it.
What is your philosophy about food and cooking?
Chef Kristen Kish: I used to cook without a story. I created dishes to try to impress. I believe that works for so many greats in the world, but I was missing the joy of cooking. Now, I like to take inspiration from my comfort foods, childhood, and things that I love to eat. My philosophy on cooking could change many more times, but I now like being where it is. My philosophy on food, in general, is to cook food for people that not only nourishes but also hopefully brings comfort and their own inspiration, as well.
What was it like to write and publish a cookbook?
Chef Kristen Kish: It was a long process, but it ultimately led to creating something that I am proud of creating. I had fun in the process, especially because of the amazingly talented women who helped create it. From my writer to the food stylist, prop stylist, sous chef, editors, and photographer—they are all so brilliant at what they do.
Are you involved in any charities or nonprofits?
Chef Kristen Kish: My charitable and nonprofit involvement are ongoing, and I’m always being introduced to more. I recently became involved with Ali Forney Center (New York), What’s in the Mirror (Austin, Texas), Out Youth (Austin), Adopteen (Colorado), World Central Kitchen, and No Kid Hungry, to name a handful of them.
What are your next goals for the coming year?
Chef Kristen Kish: I’m driven to see ongoing projects go through, continue cooking, experience parts of this world I could have only dreamt of, find new stories to tell, grow and learn, take a real proper vacation with my wife, and continue being surprised by the opportunities that come my way.
Chef Kish was born in South Korea and adopted into a family in Kentwood, Michigan. At a young age, she showed an affinity for cooking, and her mother suggested she attend Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. Chef Kish competed and won Season 10 on Bravo’s Top Chef, launched her cookbook Kristen Kish Cooking, and partnered with LINE Hotels in 2018 to launch her first restaurant, Arlo Grey, in Austin.
Restaurants at the End of the World, hosted by Chef Kish, premieres March 21 on Nat Geo and will be available on Disney+ on March 22. Follow Chef Kish on Facebook @KristenLKish, Instagram @kristenlkish, and Twitter @KristenLKish.
Follow the show on Facebook @natgeotv, Twitter @natgeotv, Instagram @natgeotv, TikTok @natgeotv, and use hashtag: #RestaurantsattheEndoftheWorld.