Chatting With the Chopped Champions Runner-Up by Maria Russo in Shows, February 12th, 2013
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In an all-new season of Chopped Champions, 16 chefs, each with a previous Chopped win under his or her belt, are returning to the kitchen to face off for a second time in the ultimate multicourse cook-off. Although they’re no strangers to mystery baskets, these chefs are under more pressure than ever, as they’re competing not just for Chopped glory but also a spot in the finale where they can ultimately claim a $50,000 prize and the coveted title of Grand Champion.
Each week, four chefs will take their places in the kitchen and battle it out in the hopes of outlasting the chopping block once again. While three will crumble beneath the demands of Champions cooking, one will prove his or her culinary chops for a second time. Check in with FN Dish every Tuesday night after the episode to hear from the Chopped chefs.
After four rounds of competition, Chefs Kenneth Johnson, Vinson Petrillo, Rob Evans and Jun Tanaka had outcooked 12 of their Champions rivals to compete in the Grand Finale battle, but ultimately only one would survive to become the Chopped Grand Champion after the finale face-off. Despite solid showings, Chef Kenneth’s appetizer and Chef Vinson’s entree dishes couldn’t live up to their competitors’, and they ultimately met the chopping block for the first time. Chefs Rob and Jun, however, advanced to the dessert course where they found baskets of carrot juice, almond flour, candied ginger and honeycomb awaiting them, and with only 30 minutes to cook, they prepared dishes that were representative of their styles of cooking and worthy of a Champions contest. In the end, despite a thoughtfully composed plate of carrot-and-ginger gelee with cinnamon-dusted French toast and almond foam, Chef Rob was chopped, but not before receiving sincere praise from the judges for a masterful showing in the tournament.
How has competing in the Champions competition changed you? Have you tweaked your approach to cooking and food?
RE: It has not changed me much as far as my approach to cooking. I like to think I’m always evolving as a chef and each experience is a move forward.
The judges agreed that your dishes were wonderfully risky and creative, made with very advanced techniques. How would you describe your style of cooking? Where did you find the inspiration to craft the dishes we saw on Champions?
RE: I can cook risky, traditional, simple, healthy, fast or slow. I feel I adapt quickly to the environment; at home it’s usually healthy, simple and fast.
You made and cooked from-scratch pasta in mere minutes during the appetizer round. Do you have any tips for home cooks who’re looking for a fast, fresh pasta recipe?
RE: I was proud of the pasta dish in such a short time. At home do a very small batch, start wet and slowly add flour. Chill flat in the freezer for 15 minutes if you’re in a hurry.
What’s next for you? Do you still plan to purchase a tractor?
RE: Next, I hope to connect my land to my business. I’d like to spend some time in the country and some time in the kitchen. A tractor would help.
Visit Food Network’s Chopped Champions headquarters for more insider coverage.