Interview Quick-fire: 5 Questions with Top Chef Season 14 Contestant, Chef Gerald Sombright

Chef de Cuisine, Gerald Sombright brings 15 years of experience, culinary pedigree and passion for precision to the kitchen at Ario, the signature restaurant at The JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. Chef Sombright was selected to compete as a “Cheftestant” on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 14 filmed in beautiful Charleston, SC. We caught up with him at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival this weekend for a Quick-fire of questions.

Do you have a favorite restaurant you try and stop at when you can or a favorite food you must have when you’re traveling?

On this particular trip to Charleston I am excited for the new McCrady’s, But usually it depends on if I know where I am traveling. Otherwise, it’s Waffle House at 2am. LOL  If I know where I am going, I try to pinpoint the most sought-out restaurant. Not necessary whats just hot at the moment, but also where the locals go.

Where have you ate in Charleston so far this trip, besides the Waffle House?

I have been around the festival, I went to Hominy Grill, The Warehouse, and the Platia Greek Food Truck.

What is your favorite food city?

Oh that’s a good question! I would have to say my favorite food city is probally Chicago. But Charleston and Chicago fight for number one.

What meal/snack is your guilty pleasure?

Ice Cream!

Where can people keep up with you?

You can find me in South West Florida, at different food festivals, on Instagram, or at my beautiful restaurant Ario dry-aging meat on the coast of Florida living paradise.

Finally for Battered and Brewed, If you could have a drink with one person dead or alive, who would it be and what would have?

Martin Luther King and Sazerac.


Growing up in St. Louis as the child of a single mother, Gerald Sombright was always a part of the dinner process. He was either cutting vegetables, cleaning collard greens, or putting ingredients into the crockpot before he went to school. He was proud of his contributions to the family dinner and recalls the first dish he ever made was crafting a batch of Rice Krispies Treats while standing on a milk crate in order to reach the counter at his grandmother’s home.

Gerald began his professional career as most chefs do – as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. What intrigued him most
in this particular restaurant, was a picture of a man framed ceremoniously on the kitchen wall. The Executive Chef there refused to tell him who was in the photo and tasked Gerald with finding out on his own. This quest sparked his curiosity — leading him to discover the man in the photo was Auguste Escoffier — the father of modern French cuisine. Researching Escoffier’s many culinary contributions piqued Gerald’s interest and led him to begin his own quest to learn as much about fine dining and cuisine as possible. The budding chef spent countless hours on the Internet, reading blogs, purchasing books, watching programs, and cooking dishes alone in the kitchen late into the night in order to understand the recipes.

Another impactful moment that shaped Gerald into the chef he is today was when he learned about the infamous Chef Bernard Loiseau, who took his own life when he learned his restaurant might lost its third Michelin star. This deep passion for cooking stuck with Gerald and the story still resonates with him to this day. He keeps a book about Loiseau’s story
to remind him of his passion. “Adjusting and tweaking a dish until it is a masterpiece; striving for perfection, and the possibility of achieving it both fascinated and pushed me,” recalls Chef Sombright. “Crafting a dish that is memorable and more importantly, something that I am proud of, is what made me fall in love with cooking.”

New to the Marriott family, as he steps into the kitchen at the JW Marriott Marco Island, Chef Sombright has held a series of impressive culinary positions across the country including his most recent stint as Chef at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Disney World. In addition, Gerald worked at Wit & Wisdom — A Tavern by Michael Mina located in Baltimore, Maryland as well as The Four Seasons and The Westin in St. Louis. In 2016, Chef Sombright was selected to compete as a “Cheftestant” on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 14.

Ario at JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort
400 South Collier Boulevard · Marco Island, Florida 34145

You can check out the Live video here.