Chef Spotlight: Stefon Rishel

Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Jackson, Mich., which, until 2007, boasted the last operational stone-walled prison in the United States.

How did you get here?

My father was transferred here when I was 8, so I consider myself pretty well converted. I mean, I’m a Stars season ticket holder, a die-hard Rangers fan, and if I can’t quite get behind the Cowboys, I’m not rooting for the Lions either.

What was your strangest job (in the culinary field or otherwise)?

I worked in IT sales for about 10 years, which was great for my bank account, but not so good for my weight. I was just sitting at a desk, eating all the time. Other than that, it’s hard to say. I mean, I’ve found myself standing in a septic tank because whoever built it decided to place the drain pipe higher up than the sides of the tank, which meant that it overflowed before it could empty, but that was at a different restaurant. Promise.

Describe your proudest moment in the kitchen.

I’d say it’s a tie. The first was my very first day as an Executive Chef. There was just such a sense of accomplishment; it was a defining moment in my career. It was like, I’ve made it, now I’ve just got to get out there and kill it. I’m officially an adult.

Fast forward about 8 years…Earlier this year I did an Alice in Wonderland dinner with 12 courses, one for each chapter of the book. Which sounds awesome until you realize that there are 85 people there, 12 courses each, so it’s more than 1,000 plates you have to get out in two and a half hours.

Favorite post-work snack?

I mean, I’m partial to the cold beer, shot of Jameson thing. But if you want to talk about food, any salty cured pig part. So yeah, for me it’s either a beer and a shot or a nice glass of wine and charcuterie board.

It’s date night. Do you cook something at home or go out?

I think I’m one of the very few chefs who actually enjoys cooking after work. There’s this misconception that my wife eats like a queen every night, when really it’s more like every third Thursday.

If we stay in, whatever we do, there’s almost definitely going to be a charcuterie/cheese board involved. Then it’s either a really nice roast chicken or a braised meat of some sort. I mean, braising – there’s just something very heartwarming about it. Like a warm hug from Grandma wrapped in a nap.

If we go out, nine out of 10 times, it’s Clay Pigeon. I feel bad that he got knocked out in the first round – I was really hoping to go head to head with Marcus. Anyway, if you go to Clay Pigeon, get the foie torchon. Right now they’re serving it with pickled white nectarine and it’s amazing. 

If you weren’t a chef, what career would you pursue instead?

Hmm…it would probably be something in the golf industry. If I have ample time and if it’s not pouring rain out, you can normally find me playing golf.

Last meal?

This is a hard one. It would probably be either my wife’s oh-so-good chicken or simple fresh cucumber sandwich on buttered homemade bread. My grandmother always used to bake her own bread and churn her own butter, and it’s just that childhood thing, you know?


If you're wanting to attend our Top Chef Finals Event on July 21, make sure to purchase tickets here!