The Truth About Kiki Louya From Top Chef Season 18

When Kiki Louya faced the choice of competing in the 18th season of Top Chef, she experienced some doubts. At the time, as The Detroit News noted while covering their local contestant in the reality television competition, the pandemic, and its impact along racial lines in the restaurant industry, had just begun to be felt in the United States, so she wondered whether she should really be spending time in an entertainment environment. However, once filming started, doubts dissipated.

Talking with Downtown, Louya explains how before returning to her native Detroit, her entrance into the food industry was inspired by her passion for people: "I was drawn to mission-driven work and would come alive when working with food, people and communities." This idea has spurred her work since, resulting in her inclusion among 16 Black chefs profiled by The New York Times for changing the food industry.

Although at the moment, her website bills her as a available more in a speaking or consultancy role than a culinary one, Louya states to The Detroit News that, "This is not the last that you will see of me in the kitchen, in a full service restaurant." However, she has left off announcing how, what, or when at that moment.

Kiki Louya's career flows from food to advocacy

Kiki Louya's restauranteering, specifically her cafe Folk and her hyper-local market and cafe The Farmer's Hand, was spotlighted by Food & Wine in 2019 for the equitable way she treated the employees of these ventures. The most notable aspects were her insistence upon paying her workers a living wage, a rarity in an industry that thrives off of tipping, and giving her employees a normal, 8/9-4 schedule. "We could profit a lot more [if we adopted the usual model]," Louya admitted, "but there's a balance. This way, we can contribute to the greater good in our community."

She also helped form Nest Egg LLC, the mission of which the Detroit Free Press describes as focusing on sustainability, local food, and ethical employment practices.

However, Louya stepped down from her work in Detroit in 2020, presumably to compete on Top Chef. In her statement, which Eater shared, it seemed to herald a permanent shift in her efforts: "[Nest Egg] gained recognition for our accomplishments, and I earned a seat at the table. But I have to ask myself: is that really enough? Is the end goal to stand alongside the decision makers? Or is the real impact when you find a way to craft a table all your own?" When Kiki Louya does return to a full-service restaurant, it seems likely that it will be to push even better practices than previously.