Judges on the Chopping Block: We Chat With the Round 3 Runner-Up

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 21st, 2013

Chopped All-Stars Round 3 JudgesThe tables have been turned. Tonight four judges-turned-competitors, Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy and Scott Conant, tried their hands at cracking the code on the mystery ingredients in the infamous Chopped baskets. Only one advanced to compete in the third spot in the finale, one step closer to winning $50,000 for his or her charity.

If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the runner-up.

Amanda FreitagThe Baskets:
Appetizer: Diver scallops, harissa, pink grapefruit and speck
Entree: Capon, ramps, canned pizza sauce and burrata
Dessert: Ruby port, olive oil gelato, dried apricots and French toast sticks

Elimination Details:
Appetizer Round: Marc Murphy
Entree Round: Alex Guarnaschelli
Dessert Round: Amanda Freitag
Winner: Scott Conant

Judges: Aarón Sánchez, Geoffrey Zakarian and Marcus Samuelsson

Chopped judge and All-Stars veteran Amanda Freitag cooked her way to the dessert round against three of her fellow judges and good friends: Marc Murphy, Alex Guarnaschelli and Scott Conant. She wowed everyone by closing out her meal with profiteroles, a Chopped Kitchen first. Despite Amanda’s impressive effort on behalf of her charity, God’s Love We Deliver, Scott irked out a win on the strength of his overall meal. FN Dish talked with Amanda to get the talented runner-up’s take on this intense round of the All-Stars tournament.

Did you feel like your previous All-Stars competition gave you a bit of an edge? Were you more prepared this time?
AF: I felt a little more prepared, but every time you go in there with the clock and the baskets, you never know what’s going to happen. It could be your first time; it could be your hundredth.

Was there any basket ingredient today that you had never worked with before?
AF: No. Every ingredient I had previous experience with. I think all the baskets were really fair and really wonderful little gifts. The frozen French toast was a little evil. I think it was an inside joke.

What was your favorite dish you produced today?
AF: Ironically, I really loved my capon. It just couldn’t beat Scotty’s.

What was the hardest round?
AF: Probably the appetizer round. Everybody was really nervous; getting it done in 20 minutes is just really hard. We had to deal with the diver scallops — shuck them, clean them. That was a lot of labor for the first round. Then you had to make a plate. It was a lot. We all went in not knowing what to expect and it was a challenge. They were just warming us up with that basket.

In the dessert round, Geoffrey said you’d upstaged the souffles and commended you for making profiteroles for the first time in the Chopped Kitchen. Did you have that idea in your back pocket going in to dessert?
AF: I had a few basic desserts in mind that I’m comfortable with and they’re all very different. There were not a lot of ideas that were going to fit with that basket because there was already premade ice cream, already the premade French toast. I truly wanted to make ice cream no matter what I did. I thought a profiterole was a great way to encase everything in one little vehicle.

You said you’re looking forward to having your own dining room again soon. Do you think anything from today would ever end up on your menu?
AF: I may have profiteroles on my menu! I also loved the combinations on the scallops — the harissa with the buttery scallop; the speck with the grapefruit.

Scott said from the first round you were the one to beat for him. Who among the four was the one to beat for you?
AF: I definitely thought Alex was going to be somebody that I’d have to keep my eye on. She has a lot of practice competing as of late. She’s a fierce competitor; she knows her way around that kitchen, and she knows her way around lots of different styles of food. She’s got tons of experience and that makes a big difference. And I love her food, as well.

You haven’t won one of these yet. Are you going to keep at it? Do you enjoy competing?
AF: You know what? The adrenaline is pretty intense. When it first starts happening, I think, “Why am I doing this?” But I am not going to give up. If an opportunity comes my way to compete, I’m going to continue to compete. I’m just lucky to have the opportunity to do so. It’s an interesting forum; it’s not something that everybody gets a chance to do, and I think you grow after every competition you do.

You all know each other so well on All-Stars — both the chefs judging you and your fellow competitors. Do you think it makes it more of a friendly competition or even more intense?
AF: I think it makes it harder. A lot of anguish in the room! I remember two years ago when I first competed on All-Stars, this had never happened before. I remember looking into Alex’s eyes as she was beginning to give me criticism about a plate and it was just painful. It was much more painful to sit there and judge. Then I had the experience to judge on the next season of All-Stars and I understood it. It has come back around and I still think it’s just as hard. They had a tough decision and I did not envy them. At the end point in the day, Scott and I both felt really good and no matter what happens, we’re really cool with it. Scott did it, got it under his belt — he was avoiding this for a long time. And I had a goal of getting into the dessert round and I got there. I made something that I was proud of.

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Comments (26)

  1. Debra says:

    Scott winning is an insult to the other chefs. He is a rude, nasty, never smiles and between him and Chris Santos, it's enough to make me stop watching the show. He may be a good cook, perhaps Chris Santos is as well but they come across as mean, nasty human beings.

  2. Bekkie says:

    I'm glad that Scott won. He certainly wasn't as arrogant as some of the other chefs that have appeared on "Chopped". . . .usually when I watch the regular Chopped, I find myself yelling at at least one of the chefs for the arrogance that they think no one could beat them – and oh how sweet it is when those same arrogant so-and-so's get chopped!

  3. Steve says:

    I felt badly for Amanda that she came up short again, but I'm cool with Scott winning. I'm just so pumped that Alex went before Amanda!!!

  4. Karlyn says:

    It was great seeing "mouthy Murphy" go home first. Good luck to my favorite Scott Conant!!!

  5. Dee says:

    HAY food network how about putting the chairtity name under the picture of each contestant so we can vote for the chairity if we can't decide who to vote for!

  6. Luann says:

    Amanda was the winner of Iron Chef as well as Chopped Allstars….call a cop! You got robbed!

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