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Chopped All-Stars Review: Food Network vs. Cooking Channel

In this first round of Chopped All-Stars, Food Network and Cooking Channel stars went head-to-head to see who would go on to the finale of the competition and a chance to win $50,000 for their favorite charity.

The Contestants:
Jeff Mauro – Season 7 champion of Food Network Star and host of Sandwich King and $24 in 24 on the Food Network.
Sunny Anderson – Host of Food Network’s Cooking for Real and Home Made in America.
Gabriele Corcos – Host of Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin.

This Week’s Judges: Maneet Chauhan; Geoffrey Zakarian; Chris Santos.

Chopped Stars

The Appetizer Round: The chefs have 20 minutes to create an appetizer using banana bread, veggie terrine, galangal and mango juice.

Jeff, who enjoys a good play on words as much as food, presents a Veggie Terrine Tartine with Pico de Galangal. While the judges were not impressed with his use of the terrine, they did feel that the dish was a good idea and a nice appetizer.

Sunny creates a Creamy Veggie Terrine with Apple Succotash. Unfortunately, her poor plating causes her dish to be unbalanced, and her use of the banana bread was not particularly impressive.

Gabriele decides to focus on brunch with a Vegetable Terrine Frittata. Though the frittata is delicious, he serves it alongside a shot glass of the mango juice, which is perhaps the least transformed ingredient the judges have ever seen.

Nadia channels her grandmother’s cooking with a Tropical Potato Croquette, and while she successfully transforms all of the ingredients into a delicious appetizer, her poor time management causes her to not get the croquette on one of the plates, proving to be her Chopped death sentence.

The Dinner Round: The contestants have 30 minutes to create an entrée containing rack of venison, potato pierogies, okra and seafood pepper pot soup.

Jeff serves a Pierogi Sandwich with Grilled Rack of Venison, and while he perfectly cooks and makes use of the venison, pierogie and okra, the judges do not enjoy his use of the soup at all.

Sunny miraculously creates a 30-minute Latin Venison Gumbo served alongside a Fried Pierogie with Seafood Pepper Pot Soup Dipping Sauce. In spite of excellent flavors, her inability to serve one cohesive dish does not please the judges.

Gabriele cooks Venison Bolognese with Pierogies, which proves to have delicious flavors. His problem, however, ends up being the pierogies – after almost being chopped for not transforming the mango juice in round one, his decision not to transform the pierogies in this round ends up being a one-way ticket to the chopping block. Who didn’t see that one coming?

The Dessert Round: The two remaining contestants have 30 minutes to create a dessert using purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, coconut flakes, calvados and marshmallows.

Sunny creates a Bread Pudding with a Chocolate Marshmallow Base, which, though somewhat busy with so many flavors in one bowl, is quite delicious.

Jeff gets creative (and a little weird) with a Crispy Crunchy White Chocolate Coconut Goo-Ball, which ends up being inventive and surprisingly complex, though very sweet.

In the end, the judges’ decision comes down to small details from the overall battle, and the end up sending Sunny to the $50,000 finale competition.

Being so familiar with Food Network shows and stars, I had high hopes for this all-stars competition, and this first round did not disappoint. It was interesting to see the Food Network stars go up against the perhaps more “edgy” (but also cockier) Cooking Channel stars and, ultimately, come out ahead. If this is any indication of how the following rounds will go, the finale competition will prove to be very interesting.

NOTE: For more Food Network recipes, be sure to bookmark Food Fanatic!