Dothan was the center of the culinary world Thursday night as Kelsey Barnard Clark earned the title of Bravo Network’s “Top Chef.”
Clark stayed true to her Southern culinary roots as she competed against 14 other chefs from big and small cities across the nation to claim the title “Top Chef.” Going into the final episode, Clark was Dothan’s favorite daughter and it really didn’t matter whether she won or not.
One thing for sure was the Wiregrass had an appetite to celebrate Clark’s success on the show. North Foster Street was blocked off around Clark’s downtown Dothan restaurant, KBC, as thousands of Wiregrass residents gathered Thursday night to watch the season 16 final episode. Food vendors lined the street as the night air was filled with music from a local band. A sold out after party in the Grand on Foster Street right after the final episode ended with proceeds going to support the local animal rescue shelter, which is dear to Clark’s heart.
“Doing the show was not an easy decision,” Clark said to the crowd gathered in downtown. “What kept me going was I wanted to make my family, my city, my state and my friends proud.”
Clark said she was excited and humbled by all the people coming Downtown to support her.
While she was doing publicity in New York this week, her fellow finalists were amazed that she was on billboards and a block party had been organized in her honor.
“That is why I love Dothan and Alabama,” Clark said.
And Dothan, Houston County and Alabama showed their love for Clark by proclaiming Thursday, March 14 Kelsey Barnard Clark Day. She received proclamations from Gov. Kay Ivey, Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate, Dothan mayor Mark Saliba and Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver. A peanut honoring Clark was unveiled by Visit Dothan Executive Director Aaron McCreight.
“Dothan is very proud to have you,” state Rep. Paul Lee, Dothan, said. “We are proud to see Dothan be successful because of you.”
Clark hopes the exposure she received on the show will result in her opening more businesses. “I hope it will help continue grow downtown (Dothan) and it will explode with business.”
Clark, who was born and raised in Dothan, has a passion for cooking Southern favorites with a French twist. She began cooking when she was in middle school and she catered her first wedding at 15 years old. Clark studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. She also worked under Gavin Kaysen at Café Boulud and at John Fraser’s Dovetail, both in New York City. Clark was featured in a Business Alabama cover story in July 2016.
In addition to earning the title of “Top Chef” Clark received $125,000 in prize money furnished by S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. In addition, Clark will be featured in Food & Wine magazine and she will appear at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado. She will also receive a $50,000 prizing package from Williams Sonoma and a headlining slot on the Williams Sonoma Culinary Stage at BottleRock in Napa Valley.