Food & Drink | June 23, 2022 8:22 am

“Top Chef” Champ Buddha Lo Reveals a Hidden Challenge of Winning the Title

Lo delivered the goods during Season 19 of "Top Chef "in Houston

Buddha Lo works the FYC event at the NBCU FYC House.
Buddha Lo won "Top Chef" — and couldn't tell anyone for about 200 days.
Todd Williamson/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

During the finale of season 19 of Top Chef in Houston, Australia native Buddha Lo went up against fellow finalists Evelyn Garcia and Sarah Welch and wowed the judges with a fine-dining-themed offering that included a dish of raw hamachi and caviar draped in a creamy wine sauce.

Lo, who has worked at three Michelin-star restaurants in London and New York City and now presides over Huso on Madison Avenue as executive chef, was deemed to be as fine as the wine in his sauce and walked away with the coveted title of Top Chef as well as $250,000 in cash.

Then, for approximately 200 days between the end of taping and the episode airing on Bravo, he couldn’t tell a soul. Difficult as that was to do, the task was made slightly easier because Lo actually didn’t want to spill the beans.

“I liked not telling people. Why would you want to know what happens in the end? It’s like a movie. It spoils it. If I tell you what happens, you’re not gonna want to watch anymore,” Lo tells InsideHook. “I was keeping my mouth shut so their moment wasn’t spoiled. I never slipped up. That’s a good thing because I would have owed a lot more money than they gave me if I told the wrong person. None of my close friends even knew. If you want to keep your money and your title, you gotta keep your mouth shut. That’s the challenge.”

"Top Chef" winner Buddha Lo puts his head down and gets to work.
Buddha Lo was a “Top Chef” fan long before he was a contestant.
David Moir/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

It’s a challenge Lo’s two competitors in the finale also had to meet due to the non-disclosure agreements they signed — even though they didn’t win. “I 100% feel for them. I won, so it’s a different feeling being asked from how those other two chefs would feel. I can’t imagine how it would feel for others who left even earlier. It’s difficult, but it’s the nature of the beast. It’s why we entered the competition,” he says.

Now that the cat is out of the bag about the conclusion of Top Chef‘s 19th season, 30-year-old Lo, who began his cooking career at the age of 14 working weekends in his family’s restaurant, is already looking forward to going back to being a fan for season 20. According to Lo, his previous Top Chef‘ fandom is a big reason why he’s now a Top Chef winner.

“You can’t win it without studying it straight up. It’s like a pro athlete not training. You can’t win championships without training,” he says. “It’s about learning how your opponents perform in their matches. That’s how people win. It’s not just a 30-minute cookoff. It’s a whole season. I cooked a minimum of 28 dishes throughout the whole season. That’s a lot. You have to study or you’re gonna go home.”

That didn’t happen to Lo until all was said and done and he’s extremely thankful for it. Except for one thing.

“I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love every day and be recognized for something I’ve been working my ass off to do. I enjoyed the ride,” he says. “I’m grateful I made it all the way to 14 episodes. I’m just happy with that on its own. As a chef, you just don’t get the grand final moment. This is our Super Bowl. Everyone’s watching and everyone’s going to see how you performed. You win a pasta challenge and you’ll get like three DMs. You win Top Chef and you can’t even imagine…I don’t even wanna look at my phone at the moment.”