As part of the 50 Food Faves package, PEOPLE named our top tastemakers — including Selena Gomez, Kristen Kish, Eric Adjepong, and more — who made an impact on the culinary world with their cooking and creativity in 2022. Catch up with Adjepong below, and for the full list, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Eric Adjepong is a triple threat — he's a competition show contestant, judge and host. But his favorite type of cooking is at home on Sundays with his four-year-old daughter, Lennox.
"Last week was cupcakes, the other week we made these big pancake souffle," Adjepong, 35, tells PEOPLE, of his only child with wife, Janell. "I just love a good Sunday. We'll go to church and hang out as well. Staying in, making pancakes, watching TV with PJs on, that's what I love to do with my daughter."
It's a tradition the Ghanian-American chef grew up practicing in New York City. "Sundays were a big day for my family," he says. "After church, we would all get together and do a big Sunday meal where it was just a bunch of family. Extended family, my family, aunts and uncles and cousins would come together. No matter what you were doing, no matter where you were, you came to the house on Sunday to eat and catch up and to laugh and just to hang out."
"I love that, and I really want to keep that going, especially with my family and my little one right now," he adds. "I love Sundays, period."
Lennox's taste may be "sophisticated for a four-year-old," says Adjepong, "but it's still a four-year-old palate. Nobody can beat Cheez-Its. That's the go-to. That's her stuff right there," he adds with a laugh.
The Food Network star, who has three degrees in culinary arts, culinary nutrition and international public health nutrition, has been crushing both his personal and professional life.
"I think my career is just a culmination of wanting to know more and wanting to really hit all facets of this industry," he says.
After becoming a breakout star as a finalist on season 16 of Bravo's Top Chef, Adjepong competed on season 17 of Top Chef All-Stars and several Food Network shows, like Guy Fieri's Tournament of Champions. Now the chef is making himself known on the other side of food competition shows.
He was a judge on the Great Soul Food Cook-Off, an Oprah Winfrey Network and discovery+ show celebrating Black chefs and cuisine, and has also judged episodes of Supermarket Stakeout, Guy's Grocery Games, Chopped and more.
One of his primary gigs at the moment is hosting Alex Guarnaschelli's Food Network show, Alex vs America. While he is new to the hosting scene, Adjepong is already loving the job.
"I honestly had no idea how good or if I would be good at this at all," he says. "I'm still trying to figure it out, as we speak but I'm having a lot of fun with it."
One of the trickiest elements of hosting for Adjepong is fighting the urge to be a competitor and help contestants.
"Especially when I see a contestant flustered or if I see a basket that I'm like, 'Oh man, I know exactly where to go with that,' I feel like I can get in there and maybe help them out," he says of hosting Alex vs America.
According to Adjepong, he leaves each day after working with Guarnaschelli feeling "enriched and inspired." This sentiment extends to the other cooking stars as well. Even on the high-stakes set of competition shows, Adjepong explains how fellow Food Network chefs are nothing but supportive.
"These amazing chefs are also amazing people who I feel completely blessed to be around," he says. "It almost feels like culinary camp when I'm around them. It's a cool network and a little fraternity, so to speak."
While fans comment on Adjepong's charisma and his friendship with Guarnaschelli, there is one physical trait that viewers can't stop tweeting, DMing and talking about: his beard.
"I'm secretly going for the best [beard] on Food Network," he jokes, adding the tricks to his luscious beard. "It's the lights and the hair and makeup team. The hair and makeup team, I've got to give them a shout-out because the beard looks moisturized and luscious. But the lights and the cameras and the shine, it feels like I threw glitter on my beard right before the show starts."