Prairie Band Potawatomi and Mexican-American Chef Stephanie “Pyet” Despain is one of three contestants moving on to the final round of Fox’s cooking reality competition Next Level Chef. 

 Now, Pyet, who specializes in Indigenous fusion food, melding both sides of her background, is tantalizingly close to the grand prize of $250,000 and a yearlong mentorship with celebrity chef hosts Gordon Ramsay, Nyesha Arrington, and Richard Blais.

During Wednesday night’s show, which pitted the six semifinalists against each other in a challenge to see who could create a show-stopping “performance on a plate” suited to the world’s finest restaurants, Despain won the challenge with her crustacean culinary masterpiece.

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

“This win means everything,” Pyet said after her dish won the semifinal round. “This is the happiest moment of my life.”

The judges agreed her butter-poached lobster laced with caviar on a bed of swiss chard, and finished with kumquat sweet and sour sauce and a ribbon of zucchini salad, was the epitome of luxury, both visually and taste-wise. Pyet presented the dish in a large clear glass bowl that elevated it to edible art, and created the under-the-sea effect she was going for. 

There was nothing particularly Native American about the lobster dish, and in this case, that was intentional.

“I want to step outside of my comfort zone and show that I can do more than Native American food,” Pyet said during the semifinal show. “I have grown tremendously as a chef.”

Even though she was going for something more mainstream during the semifinals, Pyet has brought plenty of Native American tastes to the table during the show’s run, and fulfilled the promise she made earlier in the season.

“If I'm going to be on a major platform cooking for Gordon Ramsay on national television, then I need to represent,” Pyet, who has a personal chef service called Pyet’s Plate, told Native News Online.  “I need to show that Indigenous people are all capable of reaching amazing levels of success in our careers, whatever the industry may be.”  

Pyet is the sleeper hit chef of the show. 

For the first few episodes, she remained quietly in the middle, neither winning a challenge, nor ending up in an elimination challenge. That all changed in the fifth episode, when she broke out in a big way and scored her first win with a wagyu beef burger with traditional Native American wojapi berry sauce. The triumph was doubly sweet because of the heritage and tradition it reflected.  

“I know my ancestors are singing,” an emotional Pyet said on air after the show’s creator and co-host Gordon Ramsay declared her dish the winner, and praised her for highlighting the flavors of her heritage. 

From there, Pyet continued to be at or near the top of the competition, with imaginative meals with Native American and Mexican flair, including a brunch dish with fry bread, she made from scratch, chorizo, strawberry salsa and fresh avocado cream. 

Next Wednesday, viewers can watch Pyet vie for the title of “Next Level Chef” on the season finale. 

Whether or not she wins it all, she’s proven beyond a doubt that she’s ready to swim with the big fish, and that Indigenous chefs have what it takes to conquer the culinary world. 

Next Level Chef airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. For more about the show, click here

More Stories Like This

Alaska Native Heritage Center Honored with 2023 International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways Award
Eighth Generation Blanket Featured on Cover of British Vogue in October
Here’s What's Going On in Indian Country, September 21 —September 28
The Land That Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans Exhibition Begins Sept. 22 at National Gallery of Art
Gifted Native American Flutist Robert Tree Cody Walks On

Native News is free to read.

We hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps.  Most readers donate between $10 and $25 to help us cover the costs of salaries, travel and maintaining our digital platforms. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to join the Founder's Circle. All donations help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Tamara Ikenberg
Author: Tamara IkenbergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tamara Ikenberg is a contributing writer to Native News Online. She covers tribes throughout the southwest as well as Native arts, culture and entertainment. She can be reached at [email protected].