Creators on the Rise: Gabi Chappel is going next level

By 03/28/2024
Creators on the Rise: Gabi Chappel is going next level

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.

Two years ago, Gabi Chappel got a phone call.

It was a friend she’d met when they were both freshmen at Penn State, and that friend had a proposal for her.


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“She’s like, ‘Hey, Gabi, I’m casting for this cooking show. Do you have any interest in being on it?'” Chappel says. Going on TV is a big leap for a lot of people, but for Chappel, it wasn’t too far out of her wheelhouse. She’d been around media productions for years, having gotten her degree in journalism and started her career as a reporter before moving into working production. But being more behind-the-scenes made her miss going on camera, so she started attending castings–including one that turned out to be for Epicurious.

“It was the first time in years that I was so excited to be doing something that felt connected to me. It was really wonderful,” she says. “They, from there, asked me to be on a couple of their other series, spin-offs, and shows on their YouTube channel. Just the joy that I got from doing those was what pushed me into eventually being like, ‘You know, I don’t want to just be a blogger. I don’t want to be just someone who like does this for fun. I actually want this to be my life.'”


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A post shared by Gabrielle Chappel (@gabchappel)

When the pandemic hit, Chappel decided to go back to school–this time for culinary. She went to the Institute of Culinary Education and specialized in health-supportive culinary arts, then began working at pop-up restaurants and other events around New York City.

Not too long later, she got that phone call.

And turned down the opportunity.

But then the show her friend was casting for came out, and it was FOX‘s Next Level Chef, where contestants are split into teams and mentored by a star-studded cast of pro chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, Richard Blais, and Nyesha Arrington.

“‘I’m like, “Oh, my god. Whoa, that’s a cool show,'” Chappel says. When her friend reached out again the following year, “I was like, ‘You know what, why not?'”

Now you can catch Chappel on TV each week. She’s on Ramsay’s team, and yes, in case you were wondering, she says he’s not as mean as he can sometimes appear.

Along with growing her culinary skills on Next Level Chef, she’s growing her presence as a digtal creator, carrying forward her experience with Epicurious to create her own cooking content on Instagram.

Check out our chat with her below.


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A post shared by Gabrielle Chappel (@gabchappel)

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Very nice to meet you! Let’s dive right in. I’d love to hear about you and your origins, and your cooking origins, too.

Gabi Chappel: I’m from the rural part of Pennsylvania, so I think that has a big influence on my cooking style. Where I grew up, it’s an agriculturally dominant area, so there’s farms everywhere and so being surrounded by that, I think it really helped me understand as I became more interested in what I was doing in the culinary industry. It just felt very homey to me and it felt like home to bring that through what I’m doing in the culinary world, and so I’d say that my upbringing definitely had a big impact–and also just cooking with my grandparents a lot, cooking in the very traditional ways that my family for generations have.

My family’s from Eastern Europe, and so those traditions got passed down to my family in Central Pennsylvania, where they all are still currently. Now in New York I don’t really have access to that and so I think that what I’m trying to do with my culinary style is bring those nostalgic feelings back, that homage to home into what I’m doing every day in the culinary space.

Tubefilter: What were some of the dishes that you grew up cooking?

Gabi Chappel: I grew up cooking a lot of I guess more traditional Eastern European-style dishes, but the way I would best describe it is they’re Americanized versions. A really famous dish in Poland or Lithuania is called golabki, and the way that my parents would make it was using the ingredients available to them in the United States at this time. Rather than using homegrown tomatoes, and whatever, they would use Campbell’s tomato soup. It’s a stuffed cabbage roll and they would call it a pig in a blanket, which it’s not. [laughs] I grew up thinking pig in a blanket were stuffed Polish-style cabbage rolls. I was really bewildered when everyone kept eating mini weenies and calling them that.

That was a primary dish, and everything canned and pickled. So many pickled beets, like so many, and regular pickles and goulash and just a lot of really comforting homey dishes in that style, a lot of things that are used to preserve seasonal cooking. We would have my whole family get together, can and baked bread and make poppyseed rolls, and things like that.

Tubefilter: Pigs in a blanket. They’re not wrong, though!

Gabi Chappel: No. It’s beef wrapped in cabbage and some pork and veal sometimes so if anything, it is still all there. [laughs]

Tubefilter: Cultural meeting of the minds. You went to the Institute of Culinary Education. When did you know that you wanted to make cooking your career?

Gabi Chappel: I would say prior to getting into culinary I had my degree in journalism, coincidentally, and I ended up working in production for years. Throughout that time though I ended up really missing doing the on-camera hosting elements of doing journalism, and so that’s something that I wanted to start integrating again, so I did a lot of castings. I ended up getting cast in this random thing I found on Backstage and it was like, “Anyone who likes to cook, come through.”

I’ve always loved to cook, throughout all of it, my whole life, college, high school, cooking has always been in the background. Once I got to this casting and it was like an NDA thing, I get there and it’s actually Epicurious, which is owned by Condé Nast, sister company’s Bon Appetit. It has a huge online presence, and I started doing their cooking videos. It was the first time in years that I was so excited to be doing something that felt connected to me.

It was really wonderful. They, from there, asked me to be on a couple of their other series, spin-offs, and shows on their YouTube channel. Just the joy that I got from doing those was what pushed me into eventually being like, “You know, I don’t want to just be a blogger. I don’t want to be just someone who like does this for fun. I actually want this to be my life.” Also, it was the pandemic so you’re also in a bit of like, “Ah, screw it. Why not?” kind of mentality. “If not now, when?” That was when I was like, “All right, I want to go to school again.”

Tubefilter: That’s brave, going back to school.

Gabi Chappel: Yes. I was like a star student. That’s just who I am. I was there at 6:30 AM and every night steaming my uniform, getting ready for the next day of studying. I’m a morning person still. Even as a morning person, that was not easy. That’s a 4:30 AM wake up time every day.

Tubefilter: How long did your course take?

Gabi Chappel: The entirety of it isn’t that long. It’s about six months or so. Most of that is in the classroom, the majority, but then after at the end you do have a requirement to complete. They call it an “externship,” where you basically will trail a bunch of restaurants. You would complete the coursework and then you would go there and you would, they call it “stagiaire,” aka unpaid labor. [laughs] A fancy word for that. You would complete the number of hours required, but then you could stay there as long as you want. Whenever that ends up, however long, but in total it’s about six months.

Tubefilter: Okay, not bad at all. So it’s the middle of the pandemic, you go to school, you graduate, where do you go from there? What was your externship like?

Gabi Chappel: Externship was a fantastic experience. I worked at a farm-to-table focused restaurant in Brooklyn called Olmsted. They had a really hot moment. I think they got a Michelin star in 2017. There was a couple of places I was looking at, but that one was conveniently a half-hour walk from my apartment, which was annoying in the dead of summer before and after working however long days, but it was convenient. I really liked that they had a pastry chef that I could work with because at the time I was very curious in that as well, so I split my time between working–in the industry, they call it savory or pastry. I straddled between the two and I worked really closely with the pastry chef, who I adored. I had a really wonderful experience working with him. His name was Alex Grunert.

Tubefilter: Very cool. You complete your externship, and then where did you go from there?

Gabi Chappel: That was my one thing about going to culinary schools. I never really wanted to work in a restaurant. I felt like I’d really cut my teeth in the production industry and I’d already done all of the being screamed at jobs necessary, so I couldn’t see myself working in a restaurant. My goal and priority was to break my way into this really cool underground pop-up restaurant scene in New York.

It started off with a bang. My first job was with a good friend of mine who is Bon Appetit’s first entirely vegan chef, Chrissy Tracey. She had this request from a Peloton instructor, Robin Arzon, for setting up this massive six-course, all entirely vegan menu, dinner party thing. It’s like a week after I’m out of school that I’m co-chefing this event with Chrissy. It was crazy. We not only did all of the food, I did the florals. I literally did the tablescapes. I think my background in production, I love doing those things. Set design, food styling, things like that I really, really love. It was really fun for me to bring- and it was a theme. It was like a murder mystery 1920s party, so I had a lot of fun doing that and incorporating that into the menu.

We started with that, and then from there, it, unfortunately got a little quiet, but then I built my way back into just working for people’s pop-ups, these other more established chefs, and learning the industry from this really unique angle of freelance chefing in New York City.

Tubefilter: Yes, I did want to ask, I know that you’re a plant-based chef, so I’m really curious about how you grew into that particular niche. You said your friend ran a plant-based restaurant.

Gabi Chappel: It’s funny. I like to joke that it’s like, “Have you ever tried to buy groceries in New York City?” Because you’ll decide really quickly that it’s easier to be a vegetarian than it is to eat meat when you live in New York. Honestly, it just grew on me. To this day, I like to delineate that I am plant-based, but I am not vegan nor vegetarian. It’s just the cuisine I feel called to create. It’s what I find the most fun to manipulate and to create and to be creative with. I do eat everything. There’s not a thing I won’t eat, but it doesn’t get me going in the same way that plants do.

I think that was partially because of my upbringing. I also had a roommate for four and a half years in New York who was vegetarian, and so I just got really used to cooking that way. It was fun for me. I had no real draw to meat, so it was never where I feel like I’m missing out kind of thing. Truly I’ve never had a lot of experience cooking meat other than through college, I’d put some chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Even through my program at ICE, it was almost entirely vegan.

Tubefilter: Really? Oh, that’s interesting.

Gabi Chappel: It’s a program that they call the Health-Supportive Culinary Arts. It was formerly known as the Natural Gourmet Institute and it has its own school in the city, and that was entirely vegan, like nothing meat. Once it moved to ICE, they absorbed it, money things. They’ve changed it a little where we had like one day where we worked on poultry and one day where we worked on seafood. That was out of the entire six months, there were two days where we actually cooked with animal protein. The rest was all based on macrobiotics cooking styles, which is Japanese-based and Ayurvedic cooking styles. We had a ton of nutrition classes, how to cook for diseases, how to cook for allergies. Those were the basis of the program. It made me so happy to feel that I had found a cooking program that really embodied the kind of cooking that I want to do, which, ultimately, yes, farm-to-table is how I would describe it, but ultimately, its core, I’m most interested in feeding people foods that nourish them and make them just feel comforted and loved. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but that’s truly my sentiment.

In addition to making that decision, finding that program really was, I think, the last straw where I was like, “I have no reason not to do this,” because I was never interested in French-style cooking. I don’t want to say it’s boring, because that would be so highly insulting and it’s absolutely fascinating, but it’s just not what I’m most drawn to.

Tubefilter: Definitely. When did the online portion of this come into things? I know you’re growing quite well on Instagram.

Gabi Chappel: I think that the foundation of my followers had been the same for a while. I’ve probably been at around 30,000 followers for years because of my presence on Epicurious. I think a lot of people were drawn to my personality and even some of my style. Even on Epicurious videos, I would mention being mostly plant-based and stuff. I think the foundation of the people who I have attracted over time have just been with me since day one.

It’s really fun to have an audience that I feel very connected with because they’ve been following me through all of the algorithm updates. Most people are following me from years of that. It’s been fun to see it growing now, because the people who are finding me are either through the show, or through my Reels. I really got into that, I’d say, this past spring, when I just was like, “Okay, it’s time to really embody this style that I feel like I finally now have established.”

Tubefilter: You were at 30,000. You’re almost coming up on double that now. Then, of course, you’re on Next Level Chef right now. I’d love to hear about the casting process for that, how you got involved with it in the first place.

Gabi Chappel: That’s crazy because, I was a freshman at Penn State, and I had met this girl. We were on the homecoming production committee together. It’s funny how we stayed in touch, but out of nowhere, two years ago, she had reached out to me, her name is Adina Lewis, and she’s like, “Hey, Gabi, I’m casting for this cooking show. Do you have any interest in being on it?” I felt very fresh. I was like, “I am not comfortable with that yet.” She’s like, “No worries, all good.” Then, it unfolds, and I’m like, “Oh, my god. Whoa, that’s a cool show.” She, coincidentally, reached out the following year, this past year, and I was like, “You know what, why not?”

It really was that random where my friend, she just got my foot in the door, and then from there, it’s just like any other casting process, wherein they ask you a million questions about yourself and then decide whether or not you’d be a good fit.

Tubefilter: I know it started airing in January. How long has the filming process been for you?

Gabi Chappel: The filming process, for me, I can’t disclose, but I think total for the show, they took about a month total to film, because once you get booted, you go home. It is quick, but a week there feels like a month.

Tubefilter: I’m sure, yes. Can you talk about the average filming day? How long are you on set? Any cool background stories you can tell?

Gabi Chappel: Yes, I think I can. Basically, it was a pretty grueling process, but it was also the most fun experience I’ve ever had. That being said, we’re in Ireland, we’re in outside of Dublin, the set is 45 minutes away. You’re on a bus and you get to set, and then you have these moments of interviews and whatnot, and the competition happens. It’s like the adrenaline spikes you get throughout the day are just exhausting. One minute you’re like, because you find out the challenge, you’re like, “Oh my god,” and then you have to get in the zone. Then you’re cooking, and it’s just pure focus, chaos, just every emotion.

Some days are amazing, some days you’re like, “What the hell am I doing?” Then it goes back down, because it’s over. Then you have to talk about it again because, obviously, there’s a big interview process. The whole day takes anywhere from 10 to 14 hours. Then you’re on a bus going back, and then you have to order your dinner to your hotel room. You’re in your own little area. Then it’s all over again the next day. It was a long process.

Tubefilter: Very interesting. Okay, so to preface, in general I try to avoid cliche questions, but I feel like I have to ask because people will be very curious: Is Gordon Ramsay as mean as he can appear on camera? In Hell’s Kitchen, specifically.

Gabi Chappel: [laughs] Of course. No, I am very, very happy to report that he is just a gem. I am so grateful to have him as my mentor. I’m lucky enough to be on Team Ramsay. In some ways, it really feels like hitting the jackpot just because, specifically, why I love Next Level Chef so much and what I think it makes it so unique in comparison to other cooking shows, is that it’s about mentorship. That’s the whole point of the show, is that these mentors see something in you that they want to help bring out. They want to help you become a better chef. There’s not really anything else that exists like that.

He definitely has his ways of how he would act as a chef in a kitchen, but this show, specifically, is all about how to bring out the best in people and how to coach, basically. That’s really what it felt like working with him, is just like he was a supportive figure and he was there to really bring the best out of everybody. He’s awesome. He’s just so cool. Really, he’s the best.

Tubefilter: Okay, fantastic. I know he yells at people on shows, but he’s also always very kind to waitstaff on things like Kitchen Nightmares. That tells you a lot about a person.

Gabi Chappel: 100%. Of course, ask hair and makeup and wardrobe, because they’re the people who really know, and they say he’s the most lovely person they’ve ever met. They know the scoop. [laughs]

Tubefilter: I know you can’t spoil, obviously, the show, but where do you feel like you’re going from here in terms of your career as a chef? You’re growing on Instagram. You’re growing online. What are your plans over the next year or so?

Gabi Chappel: My goal is to continue to try and reach people and to teach them about plant-based cooking and about how beautiful the abundance of the produce we have, and different foods they may have never tried or different vegetables they may have never tried. My goal is to focus on educating people. My goal is to focus on continuing to feed people. Whether that’s through pop-ups or other activations, or maybe some travel situation, I want to meet people and continue to feed them and showcase food that I just love and food that speaks to me and speaks to what you can make out of simple ingredients.

Tubefilter: Great. What has been your favorite thing about becoming a chef and doing all these new cool things?

Gabi Chappel: I think my favorite thing has been recognizing that I found… It’s weird. I’m getting emotional. It’s just crazy when you find the thing you know you’re meant to do in life, it’s just so special. I’ve worked in so many careers. Prior to doing this, I worked as a producer, but I also worked, I was waitressing. I was hosting things. I worked in sports. I did everything, and none of it stuck. It’s just crazy that all this time it was cooking. It was literally in front of my face three times a day.

To be able to recognize that this is what I’m meant to do and that this is the path, and I’m sure that it will look different in certain areas of my career and it will expand and it will bloom in very beautiful ways, and it may look different in the future, but just knowing that I am on the right path and that I’ve truly found the thing that lights my soul up is just absolutely, I am so grateful. I am so incredibly grateful.

Tubefilter: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you? Any cool stories you want to share? I’ll just open the floor up to you for anything you want readers to know.

Gabi Chappel: I am an amateur gardener. I feel like that’s something I really want to continue to work on. It’s something that I grew up doing with my gram. It was our thing together. I’m super interested in creating pollinator gardens and supporting our local flora and fauna and educating people about the importance of native species in our environment. To me as a chef, I think the most important thing is that it’s all one. Community, environment, food, it’s all tied together. It’s not separate at all.

I think, for me, I just really want people to get excited about things like that or recognize how much it could help by planting some flowers that can support native local bees and different species that we have really, unfortunately, displaced a lot. In addition to cooking, I have such a deep love for the environment in general, and protecting it and serving it.


Gabi Chappel is repped by Viral Nation.

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