In this all-new Chopped tournament, 16 stars from the Web, sports, comedy and Hollywood have converged to prove their star power. In the third episode, comedic stars Julie White, Ron Funches, Illeana Douglas and Jonathan Sadowski have entered the kitchen for more than just fun. They’ve entertained us on TV, film and Broadway, but this time the judges will decide whether these funny people’s food can hold up without shtick. After cooking through three rounds of mystery baskets, one star rose to the top. Find out who earned the chance to return to compete in the finale on April 25.
Appetizer: Jonah crab claws, sweet piquante peppers, asparagus, arepas
Entree: NY strip steaks, Brussels sprouts, marshmallows, potato tot poutine
Dessert: smoked chilli honey, strawberries, cinnamon roll dough, White Russian
First round: Ron Funches
Second round: Illeana Douglas
Final round: Julie White
Winner: Jonathan Sadowski
Judges: Scott Conant, Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy
All four comedic stars brought the laughs, but many of them also brought some impressive cooking skills, namely Jonathan who went onto wow the judges in all three rounds before earning the victory. In his appetizer, he turned crab into an elegant and appetizing bite. For an entree, he cooked perfect steak with a side of potatoes and sprouts, but it was the finishing Worcestershire sauce that completed the dish. For dessert, he created a version of milk and cookies, that despite its flaws, the judges ate with relish. Jonathan earned the third spot in the finale, where he’ll compete against three other champions for the chance to win $50,000 for his charity, the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Read on to find out his strategy for coming back in the finale.
What does it feel like to win?
Jonathan Sadowski: I think all my chemicals are pretty depleted right now. I went through my serotonin, my dopamine, my adrenaline. It’s been a long day, flying in from LA last night, not really getting a lot of sleep, being up at 5 in the morning. Illeana said it best when she said it’s like being shot out of a cannon. I just have this grin from ear-to-ear. I can’t stop smiling. I’m proud of myself for rising to the occasion. I’m proud of myself for doing well for my charity. Overall, just a great feeling. I’m floating right now.
You told the judges you’re a fan of the show. What was it like competing? Is it everything you imagined it would be?
JS: It’s hectic. Competing is hectic. And especially me being a competitive person, perfection is so high on my priority list, but there’s no way to prepare for this. The minute you open that basket, you don’t know what you’re going to get, so it’s a grind. It’s really a grind. Having to be that focused and having to be that creative on the spot is not easy, and I applaud everybody that competed, today and on the show in general, because this is no easy task.
You also mentioned you did some practice baskets with Michael Voltaggio. How did that go, and how many of those did you do?
JS: I did one practice mystery box with Michael Voltaggio, and I think he was a little — he was a lot easier on me than you guys were. This is one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done in my career.
What was your favorite dish today?
JS: My favorite dish was the first one. It was simple, straight to the point. Scott said it had a great acidity to it. I’m very big on spice, I love spicy stuff, so I got to incorporate the flare of the jalapeno, a little bit of sriracha in there, and I think it was just a really clean flavor. I didn’t overdo it. I let the crab speak for itself.
Both your appetizer and your entree looked professionally plated. You mentioned you’re into food and into fine dining. Is that where you drew the inspiration, just from all the places you’ve eaten?
JS: Yeah, over the course of my culinary expedition, you start realizing that food isn’t just about flavors, it’s also a very visual art as well. Your eyes are the first thing to fall in love, so I think making it something beautiful to look at before you get into it, it’s worth its weight.
The judges were really surprised that you used Worcestershire sauce, just straight out of the bottle, in your entree, but then when they tasted it, they were taken aback by how good it was, complementing all the other components. What made you take that risk?
JS: I wanted something salty and savory across the bottom, because I knew the potatoes were going to be sweet. They didn’t have the A1 and I saw the Worcestershire, and I was like, “You know what, I don’t know why I didn’t put that on my beef to begin with.” I love Worcestershire sauce. I put it on my burgers, I marinate my burgers in it, and I thought it could be a cool aesthetic to the plating of it as well — give it a little liquid flow on the bottom of the bowl. So, it was a risk, and it worked out extremely well.
What was the most difficult basket for you today?
JS: I would say the dessert basket. … I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve made a dessert in my life.
Going into the dessert round, did you have the milk and cookies idea in your mind like Julie, or did you have other ideas?
JS: I had a few things that I kind of wanted to try … but milk and cookies popped out at me the minute I saw the glass with the White Russian — it was just like a glass of milk. So, I was like, “I’ve got to make milk and cookies.” Given the cinnamon roll dough, so I thought what better way to incorporate dough into dough. And who doesn’t love the strawberry powdered milk drink?
The judges enjoyed eating your dessert, and despite finding the cookie underbaked they seemed to really like it. How did you feel after their comments? Did you feel like you sealed the win?
JS: I felt extremely good about myself after those comments, because dessert is not my strong point. I felt pretty good about my first two dishes. I was really insecure about my dessert, especially when I didn’t think the cookies were going to be done, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice them keep nibbling and nibbling, and then I felt a sense of calm wash over me. I figured it’s all going to be OK.
You’ve got another battle in front of you. What’s your strategy? Do you have anything you want to work on bettering in the finale?
JS: Yeah, my strategy again — keep it simple, go with my first instinct, don’t try to get too fancy, and remember what the judges said. There are certain notes, like in my appetizer, I could have used a little more fat, and I instantly came up with a few more ideas that could have made the dish 10 times better. So, just keeping those notes in the back of my mind through the competition, that’s going to be what my takeaway is today.
What would winning the whole competition mean to you personally, and what would it mean to win money for your charity?
JS: Winning the whole competition to me personally, that would be a giant pat on the back to myself, because — ask my fiancée — I did not expect to win this thing. I thought I was in over my head from the beginning, so for me to overcome an obstacle like that, I take a lot of pride in that. Moreover winning it on behalf of the Children’s Tumor Foundation and seeing them get a check that they can put toward research, ending this disease that does not have a cure, there’s no words to describe that.
Tune in for the next installment of the Chopped Star Power tournament on Tuesday, April 18 at 10|9c, and come back to FN Dish for the interview with the winner.