This week, Top Chef winner and Dearborn native Mei Lin is bringing her talent back to Metro Detroit for a series of events and a quick visit with family. Earlier this year, Lin left her position at ink in Los Angeles, opting to travel the world and participate in culinary events across the country. Eater caught up Lin this morning at Mabel Gray as she prepped for a weekend collaboration with fellow Season 12 alumn James Rigato.
How has your life changed since winning Top Chef?
Just getting the ability to travel and getting the chance to cook with friends like James Rigato, I think that's probably one of the better experiences of winning the show. Making friends with James and a lot of the other contestants, I think that was really great.
How have your recent travel experiences affected the way you approach cooking?
I think when you go into someone else's kitchen you learn something coming out of that kitchen just in terms of you kind of see what they're doing food wise — different techniques — and you kind of just pick that up . . . Our styles are pretty different, but I think we know good food and that's what we like to put out.
Which restaurants have you visited since arriving in town?
The first place I hit up is Al Ameer, which is in Dearborn. It's actually right by my parents house. I frequented there when I was still living here. It's one of my favorite restaurants. Obviously I ate at my parent's restaurant [Ed. Note: Lin got her start working at parent's restaurant Kong Kow on Michigan Ave.] . . . Tonight, actually, I think I'm going to go to Bacco.
You're collaborating with James Rigato on a menu this weekend here at Mabel Gray. What can diners expect?
A lot of camaraderie. A lot of us just having fun . . . I'm doing two dishes. A lot more Asian flavors.
When you work with another chef do your styles remain fairly discrete or do you like to meld styles?
I think when you go into someone else's kitchen you kind of learn something coming out of that kitchen. You see what they're doing food wise — different techniques — and you just pick that up . . . I think in terms of our styles — our styles are pretty different — but I think we know good food and that's what we like to put out.
What's next on your agenda after Detroit?
Headed back to LA. I'm doing a charity dinner for Autism Speaks right when I land. I actually have to do some prep when I get back into town and the event is the day after. It's a lot.