What can you expect when you put 16 star chefs you know and love on the Chopping Block for charity? Inventive dishes, out-of-this-world ingredients, smack talk, laughs, sweat and a grand prize of $50,000 for the winner’s charity.
Here’s the breakdown: Each Sunday, a new group of All-Stars will compete for a spot in the finale. Tonight, viewers saw four familiar faces from Food Network and Cooking Channel in action in the Chopped kitchen. In the coming weeks, you’ll see mega-chefs, Chopped judges and celebrities battle it out to show the world they’ve got the chops to win the grand prize.
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 winner.
Appetizer: Veggie terrine, galangal, banana bread and mango juice
Entree: Rack of venison, seafood pepper pot soup, potato pierogies and okra
Dessert: Purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, coconut flakes, Calvados and marshmallows
First Round: Nadia G.
Second Round: Gabriele Corcos
Final Round: Jeff Mauro
Winner: Sunny Anderson
Judges: Chris Santos, Geoffrey Zakarian and Maneet Chauhan
Cooking for Real and Home Made in America hostess with the mostess Sunny Anderson is just one step closer to earning $50,000 for her charity, N Street Village, after winning the first round of Chopped All-Stars.
What was it like competing against your fellow Food Network and Cooking Channel peers?
SA: I never really want to compete in the kitchen, and then when I realized who I was competing against, I said, “These are people who I actually know.” These are people I actually talk to. I didn’t want to compete against people I actually love and adore.
Which basket did you have the most trouble with?
SA: I think the first basket was the most troublesome for me because, one, it was the first. And then I saw the banana bread. I would never buy banana bread to begin with, I would just make it; I certainly wouldn’t have purchased that one! I mean, there weren’t even nuts in there. An appetizer with a sweet bread. I mean, how do you savory that up? I’m really thankful that the ball rolled off of Nadia’s plate, and I’m thankful that Gabriele poured the mango juice into a cup, because that’s the cushion I needed in order to stay the first round.
Were there any ingredients you’d never worked with before?
SA: The galangal — I never worked with it before, but I did know what it was, luckily. I’d never seen that seafood pepper pot soup in a can. I’ve seen some crazy stuff in a can, but I’ve never seen that in my life. If I saw that in a grocery store, I would run the other way. I want nothing to do with it ever again!
You mentioned that you stayed away from the machines (ice cream machine, etc.). Going into the finale, are you sticking with the same mindset?
SA: Listen, I didn’t want to do anything I’ve never done before. The closest I got to using something I haven’t before was the chill top (aka the anti-griddle) to make a granita. It’s like a speedy freezer. You know, I watch Chopped, and they love that ice cream machine. Even on Iron Chef America they make the craziest ice cream flavors. I’m going to stay true to myself. If I do make ice cream, I’ll be shaking it up — the way I make it at home. I can’t see myself chancing $50,000 to show off on a piece of equipment I’ve never used. I got real close tonight and I pulled my way back.
Speaking of $50,000, what’s the one thing you learned from tonight that you’ll take with you to the finale?
SA: I think the one thing I learned today that I’ll take with me May 5 would be getting all the ingredients in one bite. With Iron Chef, the mentality is basically just get it on the plate — or several plates. With Chopped, the judges want it all in one bite. They want every single ingredient in concert with each other. And I slipped a little bit in the second round when I put seafood pepper pot soup in a can and a dipping sauce on the side with some sour cream for the pierogi. But I think the only thing that won me with that was the pierogi, and I explained that I wasn’t trying to hide the ingredient but highlight it. Get it all in one bite — every single time.
How will your family react to this episode?
SA: My dad is going to be so proud of me, and that makes me excited because I live to make him proud. I have a really cool dad. I know, for sure, when he sees that rack of venison, he’s going to say: “Oh. Oh. No, no. Don’t do that, do this.” That’s what he’ll do.
You went head-to-head with Jeff in the final round, and even though he lost, you lifted the cloche and took a bite of his dish to go. That might be a Chopped first.
SA: The nerve you build up for competing on this show makes you hungry. I had one tiny bite of Jeff’s dish when he finished. And I loved it. Eating it helped to calm the nerves and, to support him. I love my man Jeff. And I loved his dish. It was finger-licking good. I don’t care whether you’re 3 or 30, Jeff’s dessert was good.