When “Top Chef,” Bravo’s cooking competition, makes its 13th season debut on Wednesday, three contestants will be representing Washington’s thriving culinary scene. We don’t know how long the members of the D.C. bloc will hang in there — they are forbidden from sharing spoilers — but we figured we’d get to know them a little better before the knives even come out.
Marjorie Meek-Bradley, 30
Executive chef at Ripple in Cleveland Park and Roofers Union in Adams Morgan
Known for: Switching up Ripple’s menu daily
Why did you go on the show? Having known a lot of people who’ve done it, I didn’t think it was for me — the whole TV side of things. But the constant feedback you get from amazing chefs…that’s a unique experience. I figured, why not? I like a challenge.
What advice did you get from past contestants? Mike [Isabella, the Washington-based restaurateur who competed on season six and for whom Meek-Bradley worked at Graffiato] told me, ‘Don’t f*** up.’ I felt like I went in with a better idea than most people of what it would really be like.
When you’re not in the kitchen, you’re: Reading cookbooks and food magazines. I go to SoulCycle once a week. I’ve been doing Solidcore, too. It makes me feel productive.
Favorite restaurants? Kapnos and Red Hen — I love sitting at the bar.
Spill a show secret. People do help one another — you want to win because you did better than they did, not because someone forgot something.
Kwame Onwuachi, 26
Executive chef and partner at the ambitious Shaw Bijou, slated to open early next year.
Known for: Globe-spanning influences
What did you do when you got the call from the show? It’s like the best news you’ve ever gotten, and you can’t tell anyone. The night I got the call, I bought the whole bar a round of shots and couldn’t say why.
You’re a newcomer to D.C. What’s your take on the city’s food scene? Everyone seems really friendly and welcoming. I’ve gotten e-mails from other chefs and restaurateurs introducing themselves and asking if I need help — that’s a little different from New York.
What was your approach to the competition? It’s like going to war. You can’t really prepare yourself — you have to rely on your own experience.
Favorite local spots? I really like Barrel. I’m there once a week. I love the chicken sandwich at Roofer’s Union. And I like Equinox — it’s simple food done really well.
Spill a show secret. Padma’s very knowledgeable about food — not that you wouldn’t think that, but I think some people look at her as just a pretty face.
Garret Fleming, 33
Executive chef at Barrel on Capitol Hill
Known for: Tweaked Southern classics
What was the hardest part about the competition? You usually think with your kitchen staff behind you, so it’s hard to adjust — little things like packing up your food. I haven’t done that myself in years.
Do you cook at home? I don’t understand these chefs who say, ‘I don’t cook, I just eat a Shake Shack burger when I get off work.’ There’s nothing wrong with Shake Shack, but I’d rather go home and make a small meal.
What else do you do in your free time? I have a baby boy — he makes messes and I clean them up.
Are you one of those parents who make all-organic baby food? Actually, he eats all kinds of things. The other night, I made pasta all’arrabbiata, which is pasta “in the angry style” with hot chilis — he grabs handfuls of it and shoves it in his face. He eats bitter broccoli rabe.
Spill a show secret. They use these really generic caterers… it’s some of worst food I’ve eaten in the last 10 years.