This week on Chopped, the competition went all-American with the requirement that the contestants must make a burger recipe in some shape or form in each round.
Evelyn – Junior sous chef from New York
Eli – Sous chef from California
Megan – Executive chef from Los Angeles
Afton – Head chef from California
This Week’s Judges: Amanda Freitag, Alex Guarnaschelli, and special guest judge Spike Mendelsohn.
The Appetizer Round: The chefs had 20 minutes to create an appetizer using veal shoulder, bean sprouts, marsala wine, and veal tongue.
This was definitely a tough round, with some of the chefs testing the boundaries of what a “burger” technically is (though Eli was happy to define it for us, just in case his competition had any questions). Evelyn’s southeast Asian-style veal burger had some interesting flavors, but suffered in terms of texture and was dry. She also added egg and breadcrumbs to her patty, which Eli was quick to point out made it a meatloaf or meatball, not a burger.
Eli, on the other hand, made what he was certain was a burger, and what the judges were certain was undercooked. In terms of undercooking burgers, though, Megan took the prize; Alex Guarnaschelli actually spit out a bite of her nearly raw burger. The most controversial of the “burgers”, however, was Afton’s, which consisted of meat that was neither ground nor chucked. In one corner, we had Eli vehemently insisting that Afton made a sandwich.
In the other corner, Afton insisted that he made a “form of a burger”, whatever that means. Whether or not Afton’s dish could be called a “burger” (it can’t), the judges found Megan’s raw burger to be far more of an offensive error, and sent her packing instead.
The Dinner Round: The contestants had 30 minutes to create an entree containing whole brisket, short ribs, pickle juice popsicles, and quail eggs.
The chefs may have been on the same page this round in terms of what constitutes a burger, but that does not mean that there weren’t other challenges. Evelyn had the easiest time of things, with her Thai-style burger that the judges deemed juicy and very flavorful, if bordering on too salty due to her use of fish sauce.
Eli’s double-patty burger was also a hit with the judges, though the time he spent making two kinds of patties nearly cost him dearly when he could not get his fried quail eggs on all of the plates. Afton, however, simply did nothing with the quail eggs, instead choosing to make sweet potato chips.
Unfortunately, this is a choice that ultimately cost him $10,000 as he was sent to the chopping block for his poor execution – proof, once again, that focusing on the elements in the basket is more important than focusing on outside ingredients.
The Dessert Round: The two remaining contestants had 30 minutes to create a dessert recipe using hamburger buns, chocolate peanut clusters, shaved coconut and sesame seeds.
The question of how one even goes about making a “dessert-style burger” was not one that escaped anyone present in the kitchen tonight. Both chefs were creative in their individual approaches, though they were both rooted in a French toast base.
The judges thought Evelyn’s dish was wildly creative and whimsical, though they did not think much of her ice cream recipe. Eli, on the other hand, served the judges a double-bread-pudding dish by making a bread pudding “patty” served on a French toast “bun.”
This, combined with some of his errors in the appetizer and entrée rounds – and in spite of loudly proclaiming that he knew the exact definition of a burger when his competition clearly did not seem to – lost him the competition. Once again, humility – specifically, Evelyn’s humility – won out against arrogance in the Chopped kitchen.