Chef Gene Upshaw drove from Orlando to Miami the day of the casting call and was set to drive right back when he was done so he could be to work at 5 p.m. in the kitchen at Maggiano's. He told us, "This is my thing -- I've been doing it 17 years."
Future chef Brittany Eaden is currently a full-time culinary student at Johnson & Wales University. She told us, "I've been cooking all my life, since I was 6 years old. I love food, and I have an infatuation with Latin culture -- that's why I moved to Miami."
Tim Heitz, Chef 2 Go, is a private chef running his own business with his wife, Jodie Heitz, in Broward County. He says, "I moved here about nine years ago from Baton Rouge. I've been cooking for 25 years, and the first thing I ever made was Duncan Hines pancakes and cookies. My wife said I was crazy for trying to get on Top Chef 7. I said I'm crazy not to. This is my one day off, and I got nothing better to do."
Joaquin Ortiz, managing partner Segafredo South Miami. Joaquin said: "I own Segafredo, the one that's opening in December in South Miami. I went to Johnson & Wales got into the kitchen at Café Tu Tu Tango around 2004. Then I worked for Norman Van Aken, at Mundo in Merrick Park, and his restaurants in Orlando, and Los Angeles as a development consultant. I've also been on MTV's Room Raiders."
Oji Jaja, executive culinary artiste/consult and director. Chef Oji hails from Kingston, Jamaica, where he operates a catering company, Jaja Culinary Services. He attended Johnson & Wales in Miami as well as school in Jamaica. He worked for six years in Ritz-Carlton kitchens in Jamaica and the States and assures us that Top Chef plays on Kingston TV signal boxes.
David Fisher, executive chef for the Miami Dolphins. "They eat good but nothing too crazy. Low fats, two proteins, pastas, some fruits and vegetables. We do the menu and then get it cleared with the trainer. We feed about 100 people a day, and it's a lot of food. If I get on Top Chef, I plan to just be myself and have fun with it, keep it simple."