The Chopped Kitchen has seen many talented chefs, including its own Chopped judges, compete. Tonight contenders with considerable competitive prowess took each other on in the second round of the All-Star competition. With winning titles like Food & Wine Magazine‘s 10 Best New Chefs and hands-on experience in competitive cooking shows like Next Iron Chef, four mega-chefs, Chuck Hughes, Elizabeth Falkner, Gavin Kaysen and Richard Blais took on the dreaded mystery basket ingredients.
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.
Appetizer: Black sea bass, wakame seaweed, cream soda and black garlic
Entree: Oxtail, labaneh, mustard greens and fruit cocktail
Dessert: Peanut brittle, Mexican chocolate, grape tomatoes and sponge cake snacks
First Round: Chuck Hughes
Second Round: Elizabeth Falkner
Final Round: Richard Blais
Winner: Gavin Kaysen
Judges: Chris Santos, Marcus Samuelsson and Maneet Chauhan
Richard Blais, best known for his innovative take on cuisine, is no stranger to culinary competitions and cooking under pressure. And while his appetizer blew the judges away, he wasn’t able to edge out Chef Gavin Kaysen to take the win in the dessert round.
What was the hardest basket you dealt with?
RB: I think the hardest basket was still the dessert basket — peanut brittle, Mexican chocolate, grape tomatoes and sponge cake snacks. I think that’s tough. The idea of tomato in dessert is not the easiest transition. I am proud of my dish: Thai-Inspired Sponge Cake With Tomato Salad.
Was there any one ingredient that you’d never worked with before competing on Chopped tonight?
RB: No! I have to admit that I thought the baskets were a little “mild.” I was prepared to cook with pigs’ feet and Skittles. I liked the balance of the baskets.
I’ll admit that I was a little bummed, though. To be honest, the second basket — the entree — is where it didn’t work out well for me, and that’s where Gavin got me. The fluidity of the challenge, the way that you cook, instinctively takes over, so I didn’t feel like the baskets were as hard as they could have been.
Technician vs. Traditional: This is the way judge Marcus Samuelsson saw you and Gavin going into the final round. What’s your take on that?
RB: I like to picture myself as more of an abstract artist or the garage band, and Gavin is opera. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things. Gavin’s super-talented. I like my comparison better: garage band vs. opera. Some people love the opera.
The fish sauce worked in your dessert dish and yet the judges still wanted more “soul” in your dessert — a play off of childhood memories. Do you think Gavin’s dessert had more soul?
RB: At the end of the day, it’s peanuts and chocolate, and that’s a lot of soul inherently just from the ingredients. So I get it. I understand where they’re coming from, but I respectfully disagree. There was a lot of soul in my dish.
You’re at home eating dessert. What would fans find you indulging in?
RB: I am a sucker for a good bowl of ice cream — I like a good chocolate ice cream, and that is what Gavin made. Maybe it’s all about a good chocolate ice cream in the end.
You’ve done several competitive cooking shows now. Would you do Chopped all over again if you had the chance?
RB: I have done several cooking competitions — won some, lost some. Chopped is one of the more difficult ones I’ve done, but, yes, I would love to do it all over again. I would do it all over again right now.
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