The "Top Chef" fan favorite dishes on life as a chef with Type 1 diabetes.  

By Nicole Papantoniou
Photo courtesy of Post-it® Extreme Notes

We chatted with "Top Chef" fan favorite Sal Talbot about the show, his foundation, his work as a chef, the diabetic-friendly foods he can’t live without, and the one food he misses the most.

Q: What was the career path that led you to applying to the show?

The show contacted me for both seasons. When they reached out for season 2, reality TV was rather new  and I never pictured myself on a reality TV show. However, when they reached out, I sent them a video of me being myself in the kitchen—loud, funny, and creative—and then before I knew it, I was on the show.

When they reached out to come back for season 14, which was going to be a mix of vets and newcomers, I was excited to return and work with some great friends that I made the first time around. I also love meeting new people and having new opportunities. It was a great 10 year anniversary and reunion.

Q: Why do you think you were selected to compete on the show? What set you apart from the other contestants?

I think I have a unique skill set which made me a strong contestant. But furthermore, I think my story is pretty unique—there are not a lot of chefs out there who have Type 1 diabetes, and even fewer who are vocal about wanting to inspire and change how people think about it.

From my foundation, Beyond Type 1, and my work as a chef, I am striving to change as many lives as possible, which makes for a pretty unique story to be featured on "Top Chef."

Q: What did you learn from that experience?

The biggest thing I learned was that if you have a story to tell, tell it. Even if you’re unsure of how much of an impact it will make, you never know who you’ll end up meeting or inspiring.

I am grateful to "Top Chef" for allowing me to tell my unique story of being a Type 1 diabetic chef.

Q: What are three kitchen tools or appliances you can’t live without?

  • Post-it® Extreme Notes: Communicating in a kitchen is key to a successful kitchen; Whether it’s writing down instructions to put on the shelf above the line cooks, a reminder to preheat the oven at 450 degrees or labeling containers for the freezer, Post-it® Extreme Notes stick securely in my kitchen so that dishes are made correctly and on-time 

  • Superfine micro plane: Whether I use it for zesting citrus, shaving an almond or grating super- aged parmesan cheese – there are so many ways to make it rain
  • Sharpening stone: What is a chef without a sharp knife? 

Q: What is your #1 diabetes-friendly snack you can’t live without?

Fruit leather. It’s dehydrated fruit that has 15 to 20 carbohydrates, and it’s compact so you can bring it anywhere to eat on the go.

Q: What are some other diabetes-friendly foods you can’t live without?

  • Shirataki noodles. Easy-to-make pasta that’s made from Okinawa yam. It is super low in carbs and doesn’t have much flavor, which is actually great because it’s basically an active sponge so you can add whatever sauce, dressing, or seasoning to make your own unique dish—the possibilities are endless. Plus, it has about a tenth of the carbs of regular pasta. 

  • Coconut chips. Great substitute for potato chips, whether you make them yourself (and can add your own sugars or spices to make own) or buy at a store, they are a favorite of mine. 

  • Dehydrated mango. Great for a sweet tooth without added sugars. Just make sure you keep track of how many you’re eating to know your carb intake.

Q: Is there anything you don’t eat anymore but miss a lot? 

Swedish Fish, hands-down

Q: What are the three biggest things you’ve accomplished career-wise?

Q: What’s next in your career?

I’m working on a new TV show as well as a new book, which I’m really excited about. Outside of the kitchen, my foundation continues to grow, educate, and disrupt in the search for a cure for Type 1 diabetes, which I’m extremely proud of.