What do Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira have in common? They are masters in global cuisine and they spent several nerve-wracking moments together on the Chopping Block last night during the second episode of Chopped All-Stars. Last week, Michael Symon advanced to the finale as he took on his fellow Iron Chefs. This week’s episode was just as competitive, and some would argue that the ingredients were more challenging. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
Appetizer: pancake mix, strawberry papaya, blue foot mushrooms and precooked chicken feet
Entrée: maraschino cherries, peas in the pod, parsley root and tripe
Dessert: ostrich eggs, plantains, dried strawberries and galangal
First round: Keegan Gerhard
Second round: Aarti Sequeira
Final round: Marcela Valladolid
Winner: Jeffrey Saad
We caught up with Jeffrey Saad, who battled a trained pastry chef to take the win in the final round. Here’s what he had to say:
After watching the Iron Chefs battle it out in the Chopped kitchen last week, do you think the baskets were harder in your round?
JS: Chicken feet versus pasta and Gouda cheese? You tell me!
We thought you had some really tough ingredients thrown at you (chicken feet, tripe, maraschino cherries, enormous ostrich eggs). Which was most intimidating to you?
JS: My heart was pounding as large as the beef heart each time I opened up the baskets. There is a small window of delicious with these funky ingredients. It’s way too easy to have a bad day in the kitchen.
“The whole mantra with Chopped is that you don’t do the obvious, which is the case with the pancake mix.” You were the only one who didn’t create a pancake and it paid off. Is the technique of thickening soups with pancake mix something you’d recommend to the home cook if they were out of flour?
JS: You know that famous TV disclosure, “Kids, don’t try this at home?” I think that is a blanket statement for Chopped. With that said, yes, you can get thickening power and a touch of sweetness, which almost always brings a dish into balance.
You prevailed against Marcela, a trained pastry chef, in the dessert round. Did you have the crepe idea in your back pocket? Geoffrey said your crepes were expertly made.
JS: Marcela is so awesome. When I saw that huge egg, crepes were the first thing I thought of. You don’t have time to think of a second choice in the Chopped kitchen.
Did the experience of competing on Food Network Star prepare you for Chopped at all?
JS: I knew that the nerves would turn into rocket fuel so that was helpful, but Chopped is much harder. You don’t know anything until that basket opens. When it opens, you’re scared and then you have zero time to plan anything. You’re literally creating the dish as you run to the pantry.
Would you know how to handle ostrich eggs? Ignorant re: galangal? In Jeffrey’s cookbook, Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen, he explores international cuisines and ingredients of all kind. Visit CookingChannelTV.com for a few of his recipes that will make you feel like an international all-star.
Tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c when four Food Network Star finalists — Justin Balmes, Penny Davidi, Chris Nirschel and Vic “Vegas” Moea— take their place on the Chopping Block.