Stephanie Izard Dishes On Being The First Woman To Win Top Chef - Exclusive

The fourth season of "Top Chef" is generally regarded as one of the best in the show's history (via Primetimer). The cooking competition was at its highest level thanks to an especially deep roster of exceptional chefs that included Richard Blais, Dale Talde, Antonia Lofaso, Lisa Fernandes, Spike Mendelsohn, and fan-favorite Stephanie Izard, who ultimately won. But the most notable milestone from the Chicago-based season is it marked the first time a woman took home the title. During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Izard looked back on her achievement.

Though Izard is now the head of a rapidly expanding culinary empire and a bonafide celebrity chef, she initially wasn't prepared to handle the life-changing aftermath of her victory.

"When I [won], I actually woke up that morning and I looked at my Facebook and it was blowing up," she recalled. "This was years ago before Instagram even was a thing. I was like, 'Oh my god, what's going on?' and I turned off my Facebook. I understand that now people go onto the show and they get somebody that's going to help them run all of their social media before they even go on the show. It's just so different than it was 10 years ago."

Stephanie Izard reflects on the closing gender gap for Top Chef winners

But social media isn't the only aspect of competing on "Top Chef" that's evolved. During the show's first 10 seasons, only two women won the competition: Izard and Kristen Kish, who prevailed on "Top Chef: Seattle." But over the last eight seasons, half the winners have been women. "I think it's always an ever-changing thing of there being more and more women in the industry and coming up as chefs," said Izard reflecting on that disparity. "Hopefully that goes along with it, being that more women are rising up and running restaurants and things like that around the country. They just seem to have found some really amazing women to be on the show."

Izard, however, made clear that she does not see gender bias playing an overt role in the show's outcome. "Over time, when you look at the array of people that have been on the show in all the seasons, in the first 10 seasons, there were still a lot of amazing women included in that lineup," she noted. "It's always anyone's game. It's whoever has some of their best days making some of their best dishes and who fumbled a little bit at a certain challenge."

Enjoy Stephanie Izard's top-notch cooking at the recently opened Girl & the Goat Los Angeles or one of her four restaurants in Chicago. You can also order Girl & the Goat by Stephanie Izard meals delivered directly to your home via Goldbelly.