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Melissa King
Born (1983-10-11) October 11, 1983 (age 38)
EducationThe Culinary Institute of America
University of California, Irvine
TelevisionTop Chef (contestant) Winner of Top Chef: Season 17

Melissa King (born October 11, 1983) is a Cantonese-American chef and television personality, best known for her appearances on the reality competition series Top Chef. She[a] first appeared on the show's twelfth season, Top Chef: Boston, placing fourth; she then returned for the seventeenth season, Top Chef: All-Stars L.A., which she won. She specializes in modern Californian cuisine with Asian flavors.

Early life and education

King grew up in Los Angeles, California and is the younger of two sisters. Both her parents immigrated from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Her mother was an aerospace engineer and her father, an electrical engineer. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, before transferring to the University of California, Irvine, graduating with a B.A. in cognitive science. She then attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, earning an A.A. in culinary arts.[1][2] She is also a certified level 1 Sommelier from The Court of Master Sommeliers.


King took her first kitchen job when she was 17 years old as a pastry assistant at the Getty Museum. She subsequently trained under several Michelin-star and James Beard-recognized chefs including Dominique Crenn and Ron Siegel over the next 10 years.[1][2] She has worked at several Michelin starred Bay Area restaurants such as Campton Place, Luce, and The Dining Room (Ritz-Carlton San Francisco). She was a chef ambassador for Whole Foods Market. She was selected as one of the "Best Female Chefs in San Francisco."[3]

King earned national recognition after placing fourth as a finalist on Season 12 of Bravo's television series, Top Chef.[4] King was invited back for Season 17 of Top Chef, the show's second all-stars season, where she was announced the winner and received the US$250,000 grand prize.[5][6] She was subsequently voted as the "fan favorite" of Season 17, earning her another US$10,000, which she donated 100% of her fan favorite winnings to several non-profit organizations, including the Black Visions Collective, Asian Americans for Equality, Asian Youth Center, and The Trevor Project.[7] She has the most single-season individual challenge wins of any competitor in the history of Top Chef.[8]

King owns a company focused on culinary partnerships and experiences and is the creator of King Sauce, a small batch line of signature sauces. [9]


King made her modeling debut in a global Levi Strauss Pride Campaign in 2018 [10]

King subsequently appeared in the Gap Inc SP21 Individual Anthems campaign[11] in 2021, as well as on the company's Instagram Reel interviews coinciding with the campaign.[12]

Television Appearances

King was a finalist of Bravo's Top Chef (season 12) in 2014 and was the winner of Top Chef All Stars in 2020. King appeared in Top Chef (season 18) and Top Chef (season 19) as a guest judge.

In 2021, King appeared in Sesame Street: See Us Coming Together Special, in celebration of the AAPI community.[13]

In 2022, King appeared as a guest judge in Food Network’s The Julia Child Challenge.[14]


She has made appearances at prominent culinary and music festivals; examples in the U.S. include Coachella, Outsidelands, South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, Kohler Food & Wine Experience, and KitchenAid SrPGA.[15][16][17]

Personal life and activism

King is openly gay and an advocate for LGBTQ equality as well as women's empowerment, environmental sustainability, and food education for youths.

She was awarded Grand Marshall for San Francisco Pride 2016.[18][19]

King spoke out against anti-Asian racism and harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic in alliance with Ad Council in a PSA campaign directed by Alan Yang. [20]

King hosts virtual cooking experiences with proceeds supporting charities such as The Okra Project, No Kid Hungry, The Trevor Project, Asian Pacific Islanders for Equality, National Black Justice Coalition. [21]

In 2020, King was recognized on Out100 list for their groundbreaking, ripple-inducing, and culture-shifting impact around the world in the LGBTQ+ community.[22]


  1. ^ King uses she/her and they/them pronouns. This article uses feminine pronouns for consistency.


  1. ^ a b "Alumna vies to be 'Top Chef'". UCI News. 10 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Melissa King". Bravo TV. November 2014.
  3. ^ "How A Hawaiian Vacation Changed the Way This 'Top Chef' Cooks". Thrillist. 20 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Top Chef competitor Melissa King carves an alternative career". San Francisco Chronicle. 22 May 2015.
  5. ^ Huff, Lauren (12 December 2019). "Unpack your knives: 'Top Chef' announces all-star lineup for season 17". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  6. ^ Bitker, Janelle (13 December 2019). "San Francisco chef Melissa King returns for next 'Top Chef' season". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  7. ^ Calderone, Ana (23 June 2020). "Top Chef's Melissa King Says She Had 'No Clue' She Won At First Because of Padma Lakshmi's Delivery". People. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  8. ^ "Top Chef Season 17 Winner Melissa King Has the Sweetest Plans for Her $250,000 Prize". Bravo Top Chef. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  9. ^ "'Top Chef: All-Stars' winner Melissa King selling her signature sauces". The Mercury News. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  10. ^ "Levis Launches Pride Video Series". Levis Strauss. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  11. ^ GAP SP21 INDIVIDUALS ANTHEM, retrieved 2021-05-08
  12. ^ "Gap Inc | Melissa King Interview on Instagram". Retrieved 2021-05-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Elston, Thuan Le. "Thanksgiving on Sesame Street: How a 'Top Chef' judge helps her childhood show make history". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  14. ^ "An American Chef in Paris". Food Network. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  15. ^ Tuder, Stefanie (2016-07-26). "Outside Lands Releases GastroMagic Stage Lineup". Eater SF. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  16. ^ "Coachella 2020: These are the famous chefs cooking the festival's splurge meals". Press Enterprise. 2020-02-19. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  17. ^ "Celebrity Chef Lineup Announced for 2022 KitchenAid Fairway Club". KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. 2022-04-27. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  18. ^ Heck, Mary-Francis (25 June 2020). "'Top Chef' Winner Melissa King Finds Creative Ways to Support the Queer Community". Food and Wine. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  19. ^ "San Francisco Pride Historical Grand Marshal and Honoree List" (PDF). June 2016.
  20. ^ "Anti-Asian Harassment is Surging". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  21. ^ "Top Chef's Melissa King on Competing as a Proud Asian-American, Queer Woman: "I Just Hope to Inspire People"". Bravo Top Chef. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "See the Full 2020 Out100 List Here". 2020-11-19. Retrieved 2022-06-15.