Alec Chao Goes From DJing in Miami to Winning at Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings and Alec Chao
Jeopardy! host Ken Jennings and Alec Chao Jeopardy! photo
I'll take "Bass to the Face" for $1,000, Ken.

Last week, South Florida native Alec Chao won his first game of Jeopardy! earning more than $15,000 with the correct answer, "Who is James Bond?" His wager? $305.

Usually, after the first commercial break, contestants will tell a cheesy story to the Jeopardy! host about winning their elementary spelling bee or proposing to their partner on top of the Eiffel Tower. Chao told Ken Jennings a different story.

"I was asked to DJ at a music festival in Miami, and it rained so hard on the day of the festival that the firefighters and paramedics were my audience," he says. "I think they were appreciative, but they also had to be there."

The festival Chao is referring to is III Points when in 2021, a Biblical downpour before the Strokes' set thwarted Chao's set.

Spinning under the name Xiaochi, Chao's love for music runs deep, but his connection to Jeopardy! may even be more profound.
"I told myself that I am fulfilling a dream just by being on the show," Chao tells New Times when asked if he expected to win. "My grandfather, who was an immigrant from Cuba and moved to New York, was a very intelligent man, and he applied to be on the original edition of Jeopardy! and was invited to move onto the second round, from my understanding, and he just didn't go. So it feels special to be technically the second person in my family to be on the show."

Chao described finally making it onto the show as an arduous yet enjoyable experience that took years. "I applied to all the related Jeopardy! editions: kids Jeopardy!, the college tournament, and in September of 2021, I applied for the regular edition."

He took multiple tests, completed applications, and conducted various interviews before setting foot in the Alex Trebek Studio in Los Angeles in January 2023. He got through one show before Tamara Ghattas of Chicago stole the crown in the following episode.

While you will no longer see Chao on ABC, you can expect him to drop a hot mix of ambient techno, downtempo, jungle, and other bassy tunes on his SoundCloud.

He may even appear at a club near you when he's back in town. (Chao recently moved to Washington, D.C., to work for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.)
click to enlarge
Xiaochi (AKA Alec Chao) spinning at Floyd
Photo by Jared Harwin
"I went to [the University of Miami], and I joined [radio station] WVUM my freshman year," Chao says. "I fell into the group. It changed the structure of my life, honestly, and I took the show over when the current host was graduating. I had no idea what I was doing and couldn't profess to know of the club scene."

Rather than rave for 48 hours straight, Chao took the academic root by researching and reading about Miami's lengthy club-music scene and teaching himself how to DJ.

"I was a history major, and the nightlife scene really spoke to me." He then adopted the stage name Xiaochi, the Mandarin word for street food and an homage to his Chinese-Cuban roots.

Through his work at WVUM, Chao eventually linked up with local DJ Priscilla Cavalcante (AKA House of Pris), who invited him to play and curate a show at Over/Under in 2020. Chao described the evening as his "first real gig," where he then went on to play shows like a WVUM fundraiser at Floyd.

Though the rain during III Points 2021 brought technical difficulties, Chao took the festival in stride. He played a "crunchy" bass-overdrive set, not knowing one day he would be telling the story to millions of viewers on America's favorite syndicated game show.

"It was such a formative experience for me. It was so strange with the rain, but it was so much fun. I think anyone who DJs can tell a story about a set that went wrong — and that was what I wanted to tell."
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Grant Albert is a writer born and raised in Miami. He likes basset hounds, techno, and rock climbing — in that order.
Contact: Grant Albert

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