He’s bringing sexy back to the kitchen.
Louis Maldonado, the chef of hotly-anticipated restaurant Amara in San Francisco is this year’s Sexiest Chef Alive—which was revealed by PEOPLE editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle on Food Network’s PEOPLE Magazine: Sexiest Chef Alive.
“I was really surprised when I found out,” Maldonado, 37, tells PEOPLE, about winning the title. “When I told my parents, they were joking with me, saying, ‘well, you got your genetics from us! We’re good looking so of course you’re going to get something like that!'”
His new wife, though, had a very different reaction. “At first I was nervous to let her know I was the sexiest chef because [the news] happened the week before our wedding and there was so much planning going on,” says Maldonado, who married his pastry chef partner Annemarie on Oct. 6 in Santa Cruz, Calif. “She was playing mad at first because we were crazy with the wedding but she now thinks it’s fun.”
Despite the tricky timing, the chef says the four-day celebration came together perfectly. “It was everything we could’ve wanted in a wedding,” says Maldonado. “We hit it right with the weather, all our friends and family were there. My wife was in charge of all the wedding stuff and I was in charge of the party, which was a blast. Lots of mezcal!”
“I didn’t cry at all until I walked out with my son,” says Maldonado, who is father to Benjamin, 9, from a previous relationship and now stepdaughter Kali, 8. “That’s when I lost it. It was so emotional because the support of that child right then felt so good.”
His good looks and serious cooking credentials aside—he competed in the finale of Bravo’s Top Chef season 11—Maldonado believes sexiness comes from something deeper. “I think being humble about yourself is attractive. Also, being able to communicate and have a real conversation is something that, the older I’ve gotten, has become very important to me. When you talk to someone and they open up and tell you things and not be so protected and give you tidbits of their childhood, that always scores with me,” says Maldonado, who will be featured in PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, on stands Nov. 9.