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On tonight’s episode of Chopped Tournament of Stars, four former Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off competitors entered the Chopped kitchen to take their chances with the mystery basket ingredients. Some sought redemption for not winning their RvG season, whereas others had something to prove to themselves. The winner of the round earned a spot in the finale, in which a $50,000 donation to charity and the title of Chopped champion await the Tournament of Stars champion. As veterans of Rachael vs. Guy, these celebrities are used to the pressure of competition, but not this kind. Find out who proved they have what it takes to win this time. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the Round 2 winner.
Appetizer: beef tongue, candied citron, Chinese broccoli and microwaveable chocolate cake
Entree: buffalo hanger steak, watermelon cucumbers, ranch dip and pizza
Dessert: peanut-caramel-chocolate bars, Chinese five-spice powder, coconut milk and banana chips
First Round: Coolio
Second Round: Penn Jillette
Final Round: Lou Diamond Phillips
Winner: Carnie Wilson
Judges: Chris Santos, Maneet Chauhan and Marc Murphy
Singer Carnie Wilson knows the pressure that comes along with performing, but she’s never faced the pressures of the Chopped kitchen before. As the runner-up in Season 2 of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, Carnie came into Chopped with one goal in mind: to win. And she did just that, becoming the Tournament of Stars Round 2 champion, earning herself a spot in the finale for a chance to win $50,000 for her charity, Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.
What did you expect coming onto Chopped? Who did you see as your biggest competition?
When I found out who my competitors were I was a little nervous, especially with Lou Diamond Phillips, because he’s quite skilled, and he won Rachael vs. Guy. So I thought I was in for trouble. But I kept focused about why I’m here and stayed centered as much as possible during the rounds and tried not to flip out. I tend to draw blanks, believe it or not, when I’m overwhelmed. But that’s not what happened. And I absolutely 100 percent expected it to be as hard as it was. It was also very enjoyable. I prayed real hard to just have fun.
Which was harder for you, Chopped or Rachael vs. Guy?
Chopped is definitely harder. Rachael vs. Guy was cooking at a different scale. They were both hard, though. Rachael vs. Guy was more difficult because it was day after day. But this was really intense for one day and it goes by so fast. The fact that they are mystery ingredients and you do have to worry about the clock, which is my least favorite thing about it, makes it harder than Rachael vs. Guy.
It seemed like you tried to remain in your comfort zone with the dishes that you made and the equipment that you used. You didn’t take any big risks. Why was that?
I purposely did not take risks out of my experience zone. I won’t say “comfort zone.” It’s the stuff that I’m experienced in doing. The last thing I wanted was to try something I’ve never done before and for it to not work out. If it didn’t I would have been chopped. I had this instinct “just do the things you know.”
You said if you had a cooking show, you’d be a combination of Bette Midler, Lucille Ball and Emeril. What kind of food would you cook?
I would cook something for every day, maybe healthy Monday through Thursday, and Friday we’d go all-out. But I would probably surprise people with the stuff I like to make. I’ve been experimenting with different healthy dishes for some time. I think my cooking show would naturally be funny. I want to be that chef on TV that you see has so much passion that you can feel it through the TV. Since you can’t taste the food, the way I describe and love my food, I think you almost can.
You were really humble at the judges’ table when you asked them to consider the dishes and not the missing ingredients from Lou’s plate. It’s something that’s unexpected from a competitor. But we all saw you are competitive. Would you say you are more competitive with yourself than toward others?
I think it’s innate in me. There are many facets to me, and humor is the underlying force in my life. I have to be humble. I come from great pain, and I come from great joy. It’s such a crazy combination. I’m definitely more competitive with myself.
Does this feel like vindication for not winning RvG?
It is! It just feels so good to win. I remember back in the day I won a Billboard music award. But I’ve never been in a competition and won. You feel good from start to finish. It feels really great and, yes, I feel like there’s some redemption. This is a big achievement. I can now say that I’m a Chopped champion and that’s a great feeling. Also it’s working toward a bigger goal. It’s not done. It’s only halfway there.
What’s your strategy going into the finale?
Staying extra calm and maybe slipping out of my zone a little bit. I’m going to try a few new things. I have to impress these judges to another level.