Her background: At 28 Izard opened a much-praised Chicago restaurant called Scylla, then closed it just two years later, in an unplanned stroke of magical timing that freed her to appear on Top Chef. "I'm very impulsive. My parents say, 'You're nuts!' But I've always been like this."
Breakthrough ideas: Spicy, masala-slathered pizza, chickpea fritters with hazelnut hummus and romesco, confit goat belly dunked in bourbon butter—and other unpretentious yet audacious eats.
What's next: "Opening a couple more restaurants, writing a second book, maybe hosting a TV show. Then, at 45, I want to retire to a winery, watch the sunset, and sip bourbon on the porch."
What the experts say: "Stephanie's food is big and bold, not prissy or pretty. It's got substance." —Tom Colicchio, Top Chef judge
How she'll make it happen: "Stay true to myself and work my ass off for the next ten and a half years." —Jeff Chu