Chopped All-Stars Begins: We Chat With the Round 1 Runner-Up

By: Sarah De Heer
Show: Chopped
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Tonight an all-new season of Chopped All-Stars began, and what better way to kick things off than pitting Food Network stars against their Cooking Channel counterparts? Stars dashed to deliver dishes before the clock ran out, and competitors bumped into each other, putting one chef’s dish at risk. Needless to say there was no shortage of drama.

If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the runner-up.

The Baskets:

Appetizer: Veggie terrine, galangal, banana bread and mango juice

Entree: Rack of venison, seafood pepper pot soup, potato pierogies and okra

Dessert: Purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, coconut flakes, Calvados and marshmallows

Elimination Details:
First Round: Nadia G.
Second Round: Gabriele Corcos
Final Round: Jeff Mauro
Winner: Sunny Anderson

Judges: Chris Santos, Geoffrey Zakarian and Maneet Chauhan

Chef Jeff Mauro plates his appetizer, as seen on Food Network’s Chopped All Stars, Season 14.

Photo by: Janet Rhodes ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Janet Rhodes, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.

Jeff Mauro is the newest Burger Bash champ and the undoubted Sandwich King, but he couldn't take the heat in the Chopped kitchen today — he lost to Sunny Anderson in the dessert round.

What was it like competing against your fellow peers?

JM: It was fun. I love Sunny Anderson. She is my Food Network best friend, and we get along splendidly. She makes me laugh, I make her laugh. So it works out perfectly. We bonded immensely after this round of Chopped. Nadia G. is also a character and fun to be around. Gabriele is a hoot with no filter, which I can always appreciate.

Which basket did you have the most trouble with?

JM: That's a good question. Each basket had a troubling ingredient in it to me. Maybe that first basket in the appetizer round with the banana bread — and that banana bread — and that banana bread. Do you see where I'm going with this? It tripped me up. I still went in thinking "sandwiches," and I think I made a dainty, elegant plate. That was my goal out of the gate. I didn't want to create an appetizer that would blow their palate out immediately.

Did you go into this competition thinking you'd be making three sandwiches?

JM: I wanted to go in inspired by sandwiches. And everything was inspired by a sandwich, whether it was the tartine or the meat inside the pierogi. My last dish was made with chips, and that's a sandwich's best friend. I always have to represent the sandwich.

Was there any one ingredient you've never worked with before?

JM: The vegetable terrine and galangal. Everything else I've met along the way.

Do you think Food Network Star helped you prepare for this?

JM: Oh, yes. Food Network Star helped me prepare for this competition because I'm used to this process now. But it might be a hindrance, as well, because it kind of puts me back in that place where I don't want to ever go again! It raises the fear and anxiety levels and you're like, "Hey, I don't want to be doing this right now — I'm nervous, I'm anxious, I'm going to blow it." It's a double-edged sword. But I'll always be grateful to Star.

Going along with that, then, would you do this again? This is your second time in the Chopped kitchen. Is the third time a charm?

JM: Absolutely not. I'm done! I think I've satisfied my Chopped craving. I think I did good; I showcased a lot of techniques today. I'm more than happy doing Sandwich King and $24 in 24.

This is an All-Star competition, so who are some of your personal all-stars that you look up to?

JM: Geoffrey Zakarian, which made today even harder because he was a judge on the show. I just have a revolving image of him in my head. When he competes on Chopped or Iron Chef America, he always has the cleanest station. I keep that in my head. You start off with a clean station, but it's hard to end up that way. So he's definitely my inspiration.

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