Next time you spot Jen Carroll at her Rittenhouse restaurant Spice Finch, you can try asking what happens on the next season of Top Chef — but you won’t have any luck. “I’ve become pretty good at keeping the secret over the years,” Carroll says. “I’ve had plenty of practice!”
The Northeast Philly native is returning to Top Chef for the fourth time for Season 17, which airs March 19, 2020. It’s an all-stars season, meaning the 15 “cheftestants” were all finalists, front runners, and fan favorites on earlier seasons of the show. This time it takes place in Los Angeles, with, as always, host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.
“When Top Chef calls, I listen,” Carroll says with a laugh. “Getting invited back to be on all stars is kind of like the Pro Bowl.”
Carroll first repped Philly on Top Chef during Season 6, when she was a finalist on the Las Vegas-set show. She returned for the all-stars Season 8 and again for Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen, which was a part of the series’ Season 15. Counting the upcoming Season 17, Carroll has competed on the show more times than anyone else.
“I’ve learned over the years to not be so hard on myself, and focus on how I can continue to grow and challenge myself. I’m a lot more positive and happy — positivity, happiness, self-confidence, and self-acceptance have become my power,” Carroll says. “Top Chef is very much a mental game. You go in knowing that it’s going to get really hard, but you have to keep going for your goals.”
In between top cheffing, Carroll gets a lot of off-camera cooking in, including several years working for Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin in New York and 10 Arts in the Ritz-Carlton on Broad Street (now Aqimero). Last year, she came back to Philly with her fiancé, Billy Riddle, to open Spice Finch, the Mediterranean restaurant in the Warwick Hotel on 17th Street. They also run catering company Carroll Couture Cuisine, splitting their time between Philly and D.C. — here’s hoping they have time to host a watch party at Spice Finch.