'Top Chef' hopeful Jennifer Zavala leaves El Camino Real

Top Chef hopeful Jennifer Zavala says she's leaving El Camino Real in Northern Liberties, on the eve of her debut on this season's premiere.

So ...? Does that mean ...?


"It has nothing to do with the series," she told me this morning. She says the restaurant name is mentioned once in her introduction.

Today (8/7) is her last day at the border bar on Liberties Walk, which opened in December. She had been involved in the project for a year, all told.

Zavala, 31, told me that she's weighing "other opportunities," including a possible role at Xochitl. She said her departure was amicable. "I want to stay friends with" owner Owen Kamihira.

"No drama is my mantra," Kamihira told me.

(If you're puzzling over Zavala's Top Chef photo, she has the word "sacred" tattooed on her throat and "scarred" across her upper chest.) 

Top Chef premieres Aug. 19. Also appearing this season will be Jennifer Carroll of 10 Arts at the Ritz-Carlton.