Vic “Vegas” Moea, Penny Davidi, Justin Balmes and Chris Nirschel know the pressures of competition cooking. They also know what it’s like to be in front of a camera. These four Food Network Star finalists gave it their all last season, but still came up short in the end. That wasn’t enough for them, though. They’re still out to prove that they’ve got what it takes and they’re still out to take down each other — they did just that on last night’s episode of Chopped All-Stars.
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
“Ugh! Who comes up with these crazy basket ingredients?” This is a statement that I commonly hear and read after watching an episode of Chopped. But the truth is, someone does have to research and choose what four ingredients will go into a Chopped basket — three different baskets per episode. Do the ingredients get tested first? Has there ever been a repeated ingredient? And why are four ingredients the magic number and not three or five? These are all questions I asked Food Network Executive Chef Rob Bleifer last week when I sat down with him in Food Network Kitchens.
How are the ingredients picked?
Sara Nahas, the culinary producer of the show, and myself sometimes work together, sometimes work apart, but then come together to compare each other’s work. We’ll sit across from each other weeks in advance and knock out themed shows or random baskets — potential flavor and color combinations that will end up on the plate and, of course, that one ingredient that will get people talking. We have a list of ingredients we’ve already used in front of us, which is around 15 pages long, so I cross-reference that. In the past, we may have used an ingredient twice, but sometimes it’s intentional.
Is there a secret to a good Chopped basket (one part this, two parts that, etc.)?
While we’re creating the baskets, if we have to think too long about the possibilities of dishes, the baskets go away. If it takes us more than 15 seconds for a solution, it’s out. The contestants don’t have that much time.
We’ll often try, certainly in an entrée, to have a grain or starch or one ingredient that is substantial, whether it’s a protein or produce. But there’s no hard and fast rule that there has to be this, there has to be that.
Week two of Chopped All-Stars had gourmet globetrotting contestants Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira dealing with some offbeat ingredients. Some would even argue that the ingredients were more difficult than those dealt to the Iron Chefs the week before.
While we may not be running out to the market to pick up a pound of tripe, some of the ingredients are more commonly used, like chicken feet, which are great to flavor chicken broth.
What do Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira have in common? They are masters in global cuisine and they spent several nerve-wracking moments together on the Chopping Block last night during the second episode of Chopped All-Stars. Last week, Michael Symon advanced to the finale as he took on his fellow Iron Chefs. This week’s episode was just as competitive, and some would argue that the ingredients were more challenging. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
Appetizer: pancake mix, strawberry papaya, blue foot mushrooms and precooked chicken feet
Entrée: maraschino cherries, peas in the pod, parsley root and tripe
Dessert: ostrich eggs, plantains, dried strawberries and galangal
Last Sunday night on the premiere episode of Chopped All-Stars, the Iron Chef contestants opened up their baskets to find sour trahana. I quickly found myself Googling the term, only to find out several minutes later from Ted Allen that it’s a traditional Greek pasta that is essentially flour kneaded with sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt and some salt.
I couldn’t get a good glimpse of the grain on TV, but imagine a substance similar to couscous.
According to The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas, “Until a generation ago, sour trahana was the shepherd’s and farmer’s breakfast. It was made at the end of every summer all over Greece in preparation for the winter months.”
So what can you do with sour trahana? Try cooking it in a soup, like Cat Cora’s Chicken Soup. The longer you cook the grain, the thicker it becomes.
If you can’t find sour trahana in the international aisle of your local supermarket, try searching for it online at a Greek specialty store.
Tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c when four gourmet globetrotters — Keegan Gerhard, Marcela Valladolid, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira — take their place on the Chopping Block.
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 — you can expect it all on the newest season of Chopped All-Stars.
Here’s the breakdown. Each Sunday, a new group of All-Stars will compete for a spot in the finale. Last night, four Iron Chefs battled it out. In the coming weeks, you’ll see gourmet globetrotters, former Food Network Star contestants and Chopped judges. That’s right — the judges are coming out from behind their judges’ table to show the world they’ve got the chops to win the grand prize, too.
Last night, Michael Symon, Jose Garces, Cat Cora and Marc Forgione stepped out of the comfort zone of Kitchen Stadium to compete against each other. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode, divulge the winner and chat with the runner-up.
Chopped All-Stars is back for a second season, and this year’s tournament kicks off with some very heavy hitters. On Sunday night at 9pm/8c, four Iron Chefs will do battle outside their Kitchen Stadium comfort zone. Cat Cora, Marc Forgione, Jose Garces and Michael Symon are all determined to cook their hearts out and take home the win. Of course, only one of them will advance to the final round for a chance to score $50,000 for their charity of choice. Check out our list to see which charity each chef is playing for.
Needless to say, this round should be a nail-biter for judges Scott Conant, Aarón Sanchez and Geoffrey Zakarian. Who won’t make it past the appetizer round? Which two will go head-to-head on dessert? Tune in to watch four seasoned competitors throw down in the Chopped Kitchen this Sunday at 9pm/8c.
Join the #Chopped conversation on Twitter during Sunday’s episode.