The Untold Truth Of Top Chef's Melissa King

Melissa King is an unstoppable force of nature. There's no other way to put it. The San Francisco star chef is most famous for her astounding and memorable victory on "Top Chef All Stars," a finale that moved judges literally to tears. "I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it," King shared in an interview with Food & Wine. "I channeled the energy of my food and presented my true, authentic self to you all." King holds more challenge wins than any other contestant in the history of the Bravo cooking competition franchise. Born in Los Angeles, California, to a Cantonese mother and a Shanghainese father, King's cooking often reflects her upbringing. The "Top Chef" victor's signature style blends modern California cuisine with Asian flavors.

King boasts many impressive cooking accolades. Not only is she a level 1 sommelier, but she has also been recognized as "one of the best female chefs in San Francisco" and a "40 under 40 Rising Star" (via Chef Melissa King). But if you can believe it, this multifaceted talent has also accrued many other major achievements, some even outside the culinary world. Read on to discover some unknown secrets about this Chinese-American chef.

The TV personality is really shy

After braving the big screen on "Top Chef," it's hard to believe that King is anything but confident in real life. But in an interview with Food & Wine, she opens up about growing up with a shy side. "I was painfully shy most of my life," she admits. "I couldn't give a speech at my sister's wedding."

With two separate stints on "Top Chef," first in Season 12 and later in Season 17, King credits the popular Bravo TV show in helping her grow into and believe in herself. As she improved her cooking skills, she also worked on her confidence. "The idea of being on national television and putting my work out into the world made me feel vulnerable and terrified," she shared with The Zoe Report. "But leaning into that fear and deciding to go for it only validated my strength. When you get pushed beyond your boundaries, you'll be surprised at the person you discover on the other side of your journey." Amen, Melissa!

King has used her Top Chef success to support her passions

Not only did Melissa King walk away with the winning "Top Chef" title in Season 17, but she was also named as the Fan Favorite, along with the accompanying $10,000 prize. Rather than hold onto the prize money, King selflessly donated every single penny to causes close to heart, supporting Black, LGBTQ+, and Asian American communities.

Winning "Top Chef" as a queer, Chinese American spoke to many members of both the LGBTQ+ and Asian American communities. King received an outpour of positive messages from fans, including some that credited her as their inspiration to come out to friends and family. "I feel very strongly that 'Top Chef' has given me more than just a platform for food," she shared in an interview with Bravo TV. "I've been really trying to use my voice as much as I can, especially for the people out there that don't have that voice."

King's powerful philanthropic efforts are both ceaseless and wide-reaching. In June 2020, King created a line of hats and face masks that she sold through her website. In honor of Pride Month, a portion of the donations supported The Trevor Project, a leading charity for helping LGBTQ+ youth in crisis. Partnering with her friend Sunjin Kim, a Korean designer, King also helped design an "I AM HUMAN" t-shirt, where 100% of the proceeds went toward supporting Stop AAPI Hate (via The Zoe Project).

The Top Chef star has created her own ice cream flavors

To add to her impressive list of achievements, chef Melissa King has also created her own ice cream flavors. The multitalented chef has partnered with Humphrey Slocombe, an innovative and trendy San Francisco ice cream company, several times, to create exclusive products for Whole Foods Market.

When King first sat down to brainstorm ideas with Jake Godby and Sean Vahey, the owners of Humphrey Slocombe, they very quickly decided on Hong Kong Milk Tea as a natural direction for the team's first flavor (via Humphrey Slocombe). This flavor is near and dear to King's heart, not only did it make an appearance in the famous Season 17 finale of "Top Chef," King's mother still makes this comforting and delicious beverage every morning. Traditionally served in Chinese cafés, as well as a common American beverage, Hong Kong Milk Tea is also the perfect representation of King's Chinese American identity.

King has teamed up with Humphrey Slocombe and Whole Foods to create several more ice cream flavors. Her second flavor, Almond Chocolate Crunch, is a plant-based pint with spiced chocolate elements perfect for fall. Another collaboration, Yuzu Cream, is based on the unique Japanese citrus, providing ice cream lovers with a refreshing summer treat. King has gone on to also co-create the flavors Golden Milk & Gingerbread, Coconut Shoyu Caramel, and Mango Mojito with Humphrey Slocombe and Whole Foods (via Chef Melissa King). 

Melissa King has modeled for GAP and Levi Strauss

Yes, that's right, Melissa King can also add model to her growing resume. In 2018, King made her modeling debut in a worldwide campaign for Levi's Strauss Co. in honor of Pride Month, marking the fifth anniversary of Levi's Pride. King was selected to be a member of the 2018 Pride Cast, alongside other "pioneers and trailblazers" in the LGBTQ+ community, such as "POWERVERS" podcast co-host Arbie Mosley and activist and public speaker IO Tillett Wright. In a motivational and moving video, King shares her personal story with the world and encourages her followers, above all else, to be themselves. As part of the campaign, Levi Strauss released a Pride clothing collection featuring bright, colorful pieces with rainbow-inspired designs (via HashTagLegend).

King was also chosen to appear in Gap's "Generation Good" campaign, a campaign featuring "culture-shapers and creatives using their voices to inspire the next generation." The groundbreaking cast of models all strongly share the same values of inclusion, diversity, and community (via Cassius Life).

King kept herself busy during the COVID-19 pandemic

The celebrity chef did not let the COVID-19 pandemic get her down. During the 2020 lockdown last summer, the model and activist bottled and sold some of her beloved sauces online, some of which were featured during her time on "Top Chef." Some of her "sublime sauces" for sale include the Fish Sauce Caramel, the X.O., an "umami-rich condiment made from dried scallop and shrimp," along with a Mala Chile Oil, and a Sichuan Chile Sauce (via Mercury News). Is your mouth watering yet? All the bottles are handcrafted, hand-labeled, and shipped by King personally. "I had several hundred units that sold out in 25 minutes," she shared with Bravo TV.

King continued to embrace the virtual COVID lifestyle by offering online cooking classes, which can be viewed on the Crowdcast streaming service. "I would absolutely love to continue expanding ways for people to have access to my food," the "Top Chef" veteran shares. King plans to continue offering these webinars even after quarantining and COVID-19.