Kosher Chef, Katsuji Tanabe, to Compete on Top Chef Season 12

The latest crop of cheftestants to appear on Top Chef Season 12, unveiled today by BravoTV, is your usual ragtag group of rising stars in the culinary world. Among the 16 cooks vying for epicurean glory is Katsuji Tanabe, chef and owner of MexiKosher, a—you guessed it—kosher Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles.

Top Chef has never shied away from diverse casting. Each season brings a new crop of tattooed, pierced, multi-ethnic, mohawked individuals who specialize in any and every type of cuisine under the sun. But a kosher chef? That’s still about as rare as a white truffle. 

For a show that doesn’t exactly bend to the will of dietary restrictions, it would be interesting to see whether Katsuji will opt to cook Kosher food while competing. Katsuji, who is not Jewish, was intrigued by the challenge of kosher cooking, according to a 2013 Jewish Journal piece.

Cooking kosher and keeping kosher are two very different things. (The chef exclaims that he “loves pork” on his Top Chef bio page.) Still, in a time when bacon-flavored foods are at their peak, it’s admirable that Katsuji would create a restaurant that caters to kosher eaters. 

Katsuji certainly likes to challenge himself in the kitchen. Top Chef is his second televised culinary contest, winning an episode of Food Network’s Chopped! in 2013. 

Set your DVRs.Top Chef Boston debuts Wednesday, October 15th at 10:00 pm.

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