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Chopped Review: Sweet Surprises

This week on Chopped, the contestants were thrown for a loop when all three baskets contained a dessert item: a tiered cake in the appetizer round, macaroons in the dinner round and frozen hot chocolate in the dessert round.

Even though two of the contestants specialize in pastry, these basket ingredients were a bit too unexpected, even for Chopped, and some of the chefs simply could not rise to the challenge.

The Contestants:
Madeline, Chef-owner from New York City.
Jemell, Chef-owner from New York City.
Allison, Pastry chef and restaurant co-owner from Brooklyn, New York.
Kenny, Sous chef from Austin, Texas.

This Week’s Judges: Scott Conant, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Marcus Samuelson.

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The Appetizer Round: The chefs had 20 minutes to create an appetizer using rack of wild boar, broccolini, hazelnuts, and vanilla fondant cake.

In spite of being handed an unusual appetizer ingredient, which should have sparked some real resourcefulness in these chefs, there was little to no variation or originality between the different dishes.

Surprisingly, none of the judges commented on this: perhaps the sweetness of the cake in each of the dishes put them into a sugar-induced daze through which they had trouble seeing. Kenny was the most successful in using the cake in his Pan-Fried Boar with Dragoncello sauce, while Madeline was the most creative in her plating, using the cake’s fondant decorations to adorn the plate for her Cake-Hazelnut Encrusted Boar.

Allison and Jemell, on the other hand, were not quite as successful; Allison served the judges overcooked and overly sweet Pan-Seared Boar Chops, while Jemell failed to pay attention to the clock and ended up serving almost raw Cake and Hazelnut Encrusted Boar. He was, not surprisingly, sent packing.

The Dinner Round: The contestants had 30 minutes to create an entrée containing duck, cardoons, preserved lemons, and macaroons.

Surprisingly, none of these chefs successfully cooked the duck in this round. I would have thought that would be one of the first things you learn in culinary school, yet the women both overcooked their duck while Kenny failed to render the fat out of his.

The judges declared Madeline’s Pan-Roasted Duck Breast to be the least “offensive” dish, however, barely saving her from elimination – though being saved because other people failed even more miserably than you did is certainly nothing to boast about.

The judges were left trying to determine who massacred their basket ingredients the least: Allison with her Duck Breast and Spinach Puree, or Kenny with his Grilled Duck with Lentils and Braised Cardoons. Kenny’s monumental error of leaving the macaroons off his plate was the nail in his coffin, sending him to the chopping block.

The Dessert Round: The two remaining contestants had 30 minutes to create a dessert recipe using clementines, cheese wedges, Aleppo pepper, and frozen hot chocolate.

The dessert round was a showdown between the two pastry chefs: the overconfident, whiny Allison, and the experienced, pioneering Madeline. The judges felt that Allison’s Cheese and Clementine Mousse just barely edged out Madeline’s Cheese Mousse Trifle in this round (despite Allison’s mousse not being as technically sound as it perhaps should have been for a pastry chef). Overall, however, Madeline was more successful with her dishes, winning the $10,000 and the title of Chopped champion.

After leading the way for women in the culinary industry and working hard to earn the respect of her colleagues, Madeline certainly earned the title long before she entered the Chopped kitchen and proved that age is just a number when it comes to passion.

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