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The softer side of ‘Top Chef’

Make no mistake: Jennifer Carroll wants to win when she’s in the kitchen.

Jennifer Carroll exited "Top Chef All Stars" exactly the way you'd expect a talented, feisty chef raised in Northeast Philly would: cursing out the show's judges and defending the honor of her final dish.

Carroll doesn't regret the move, or the show's depiction of her as a general badass -- after all, she kind of is. But she's looking forward to sharing her softer side on Bravo's new series, "Life After Top Chef." Premiering Wednesday, the show follows Carroll along with fellow "Top Chef" alum Richard Blais, Spike Mendelsohn and Fabio Viviani as they balance their careers and families outside of the reality competition bubble.

"You get to see another side of me -- you get to see me going out and having fun. You get to see how much I love and care for my family," says Carroll. "I think it helps maybe ease a little how I went out on 'All Stars,' maybe I can win back some of the fans I lost there. I gained fans in all of the metropolitan areas -- I think they all respected that, and I think I gained a little street cred. But in middle America, they have a whole different way of life, of sunshine and lollipops."

Previously the chef de cuisine at 10 Arts, Carroll left last fall to focus on her own restaurant, Concrete Blonde, which begins construction this month. The name is a reflection of both her personality and her menu, which will be heavy on the seafood and include plenty of vegetarian options.

"I was looking for a name to describe me -- how two very opposite things can form some sort of balance," she says. "In the kitchen, I'm tough, but in my personal life, I'm fun and delicate and have emotions. So it's about me, but it's also about my style of food -- it's very simple, but at the same time, it's very flavorful and complex.

 
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