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On tonight’s premiere episode of the new Chopped Tournament of Stars, four sports stars entered the competition to take on the mystery baskets for an opportunity to earn a spot in the finale. A $50,000 donation to charity and the title of Chopped champion are at stake. Each athlete is familiar to the competition of his or her individual sport, but when it comes to the Chopped kitchen, it’s an entirely different ball game. Only one proved to have what it takes to win, showing a true charge of the kitchen. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the Round 1 winner.
Appetizer: organic green juice, alligator, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and mini rainbow marshmallows
Entree: turkey tenderloin, double-yolked eggs, finger limes and pattypan squash
Dessert: chocolate liquid breakfast drink, pink wafer cookies, crystallized ginger and red Bosc pears
First Round: Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Second Round: Charles Oakley
Final Round: Greg Louganis
Winner: Brandi Chastain
Judges: Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnaschelli and Marc Murphy
Professional soccer player Brandi Chastain came into the competition as a fierce competitor, and after making it through three grueling courses, she proved her might by coming away the winner and securing a spot in the finale. Brandi is one step closer to earning $50,000 for her charity, BAWSI, and the title of Chopped champion.
Which was the hardest basket for you and why?
I think the first basket because it’s the first basket. Before you get the basket, your mind is racing as to what would be in there, and all of a sudden you have the basket. So the hardest part is putting your head around those items and trying to come up with something. The first basket is unique in that way.
What were you expecting, coming into Chopped?
I guess I expected excitement and fun, but in terms of how it actually goes and what it’s like, I couldn’t have been any farther off in those two categories. It was completely different than what I imagined, in its function and its intensity. I feel physically drained yet I think it’s because mentally you have to be in those 20 or 30 minutes. I did not see that coming at all.
Who did you see as your biggest competition?
I had no idea. I mean, I knew that Greg, Charles and Jackie were going to be in the competition with me, but I had no frame of reference in terms of their cooking expertise. I felt that my biggest obstacle was me. Could I stay within my comfort zone with what I knew, or could I be just slightly adventurous?
Were there any basket ingredients you weren’t familiar with? Were you thrown off at all?
Yes, the little finger limes. I’ve never heard of them. They didn’t taste too different, but they don’t have a lot of pulp. In terms of how do they work, I had to guess. I didn’t taste the outside. I only squeezed the inside. I learned a lesson there that you have to taste the whole thing if I you’re going to use the whole thing.
What was your goal by competing on Chopped?
This competition had many layers for me. One, my son and I love the show. We watch it and record it religiously. So I wanted to do a good job for him. Two, I wanted to respect the judges because this is their life’s passion. So I wanted them to know I was serious about the competition — that I just wasn’t coming in here to fool around. Three, as a BAWSI girls’ ambassador, my goal is to win the $50,000 for charity and to impact more girls’ lives in a positive way.
What’s your strategy going into the finale?
That’s a good question because not knowing what it was like kind of gives you the freedom to just go, but now the tendency would be to overthink it. So now my strategy will be to keep it simple, not simple basic, but simple as to what worked and what could work potentially without going crazy.
Geoffrey said you moved like a professional chef and you baked a successful cake. For never having cooked professionally, how did you do it?
I know for sure that it came from playing soccer. My athletic experience and instinct just kicked in. You move in space and time and you have to see the big picture. You have to think ahead of time. You have to know the process of things, otherwise you’re going to get it wrong. I know that that clearly was an asset for me today.
Coming from sports you’re used to competition, but how has this culinary competition affected you and how you see cooking?
What I love is soccer. It’s been a part of my life since I was a little girl. I fell in love with it with the first kick, but there’s something uniquely special about being able to cook a good meal and for people to be able to sit down at the table, take a bite and go “mmm.” I feel that. I’m not only tasting it, I’m feeling it. Gosh, it’s good. I haven’t had too many of those moments, but I think I have a newfound appreciation for what food and good, healthy food means.