Sonoma Top Chef to Star on Guy Fieri’s ‘Tournament of Champions’

The 32 chefs competing on the Food Network show will vie for the “Tournament of Champions” belt, as well as a $150,000 cash prize.

Renowned Sonoma chef Casey Thompson will be appearing on the upcoming fifth season of Guy Fieri’s “Tournament of Champions,” premiering 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18 on Food Network.

The stakes for the show are high, the competition is intense, but an opportunity to work with Guy Fieri is always a strong draw.

“I have actually done charity work with Guy in the past and he is a joy. Easy to be around, easy to talk to, but he expects a lot for his television. And you don’t want to let him down,” said Thompson, who is the executive chef of Folktable restaurant.

Chef Casey Thompson of Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)
Chef Casey Thompson of Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)

Now in its fifth season, the culinary reality show pits top chefs from the East and West coasts against each other over the course of an eight-week bracket system tournament. The 32 chefs competing on the show will vie for the “Tournament of Champions” belt, as well as a $150,000 cash prize.

What was Thompson’s initial reaction when she received the casting call to appear on the show? “The same reaction I always have had when the shows call—‘No way am I doing this,’” she said.

It certainly is not the first time Thompson has been featured on television. She has made several appearances on Bravo’s Top Chef series in the past.

“It has been a very long time since I have competed. I initially felt like a fish out of water. The other competitors seem to compete in the same group in every show on television!” she explained.

Previously, Thompson was a runner-up and was voted Fan Favorite on Top Chef: Miami (season 3) and appeared on Top Chef: All-Stars (season 8) as well as Top Chef: Charleston (season 14). She also was a guest judge on Top Chef Junior episode 7.

When asked about the differences between the experience of working in a reality TV show kitchen and working in a restaurant kitchen, she said: “No comparison. Folktable is a farm-to-kitchen set up. We wash a lot of vegetables and serve a lot of people. There is no lighting, makeup, or steam irons. There certainly is no $150,000 prize.”

At Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)
At Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)
At Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)
At Folktable restaurant in Sonoma. (Erika Cole)

Thompson’s Folktable, located in the Cornerstone Gardens in Sonoma, is a farm-to-table restaurant that has received the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand distinction three consecutive years, most recently in 2023. A native of Texas, the chef has a flair for fusing southern comfort food with Sonoma County flavors.

It was the desire to be close to where fresh ingredients are harvested that brought Thompson to this region.

“I came to Sonoma for the opportunity to work directly with a farm and a farmer. A chef can ship whatever they need right to their back door, but can they grow it?” she said.

With Folktable’s focus on making the best use of fresh, seasonal ingredients, menu items are crafted using locally sourced produce from onsite certified organic farm, Tank House Farms. Popular dishes include Whole Roasted Eggplant with confit chickpeas, tahini yogurt, garlic-pine nut oil and herbs; Crispy Sunchokes with feta, dill, garlic butter, anchovy cream; and a Honey Fried Chicken Sandwich.

As far as Thompson is concerned, Sonoma seems to have just the right combination of ingredients to make it thoroughly appealing.

“I love Sonoma. We have made it our forever home. We love the pace, the people, the connection to its past and the need to keep it small but elevated. You can spot a tourist a mile away here—they are wearing heels,” said Thompson.

Also competing on the upcoming show is Crista Luedtke, chef and owner of Guerneville’s boon eat + drink and proprietor of boon hotel + spa. Read more in this Press Democrat article.