One-on-One with the Chopped Teen Tournament, Part 2 Winner

Find out which competitor earned the second spot in the Chopped Teen Tournament finale, for a chance to win $25,000.
Show: Chopped

(L-R) Teens 13 year old Peter Wenger and 15 year old Salma Zahran with host Ted Allen before starting the dessert round for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

On tonight's second installment of the five-part Chopped Teen Tournament, four teens entered the hallowed kitchen to try their luck at the mystery baskets. Many of them have practiced in advance, even training with their culinary instructors. But nothing could truly prepare them for the pressure and the time constraints. Nevertheless the teens took the competition in stride, and ultimately one of them rose to the top with three courses that earned a place in the finale, where he or she will compete for a chance to win the $25,000.

The Baskets

Appetizer: wild langoustines, Asian long beans, yuzu juice, Japanese sweet potato

Entree: lamb shoulder, coconut milk, bok choy, dates

Dessert: powdered peanut butter, ice cream sandwiches, marshmallows, curry powder

Elimination Details
First round: Alyssa
Second round: Nino
Final round: Salma
Winner: Peter

Judges: Scott Conant, Maneet Chauhan, Amanda Freitag

More from this Episode

13 year old Peter Wenger stands before Chopped host Ted Allen and judges: Scott Conant, Maneet Chauhan and Amanda Freitag moments after finding out he has become a Chopped Champion and secured a spot in the $25000 tournament for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Peter exhibited such poise, skill and professionalism throughout. He put out three plates that the judges could easily mistake as having been prepared by a professional chef with years of experience. Peter slightly overcooked the langoustines in his appetizer, and overused the yuzu juice, but the judges found his dish sophisticated. In the entree round, Peter prepared a stir-fry using the lamb shoulder, which the judges found tender, but his heavy-handedness with the dates drew criticism. And although Peter's crepe in the dessert round came out eggy, the judges commended him for producing great flavor to complement the curry powder. With this win, Peter earned a spot in the finale on Sept. 22.

How does to feel to win today and to be going to the finale?

Peter: It's pretty crazy. I mean, I am just in shock, but mostly kind of nervous because I know I have to do this all over again — soon. But I'm excited and more than anything I'm happy and just, you know, I don't even know what to think, actually. It's just such a crazy thing.

Did you practice before coming on the show?

Peter: I did practice ... and I think it definitely paid off. I stuck to the plan in all of the rounds and it brought me to the end.

You mentioned you had a cooking mentor, Joel. What kind of things did you work on with him?

Peter: Well, we went through appetizer, entree and dessert. And we also sort of focused on getting dessert recipes ready for the dessert round just so I have them down and I know a recipe and I know what I'm doing. But it was a lot of the stuff we were just kind of reviewing — the technique and things that I've been doing throughout the year.

13 year old Peter Wenger works on his appetizer that must include: wild langoustines, asian long beans, yuzu juice and Japanese sweet potatoes for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

How different was it actually competing than what you might have imagined?

Peter: Competing is just such a different experience because you're in the moment, and the time just goes by so fast! ... I'll never look at Chopped the same way that's definitely for sure, because it's such an experience and such a rush that it just goes by like that.

What was the hardest basket for you today?

Peter: The hardest basket for me today would have to be the first one, the appetizer, because when I saw those shellfish, I just thought, "What am I going to do?" And it took a lot of time to get enough meat out of there ... and even then I didn't have that much meat on the plate and I kind of served it as almost an amuse-bouche (small appetizer-type thing). But overall I persevered through that round, but it was definitely a challenging one in terms of developing flavors.

You mentioned flavor. The judges commented that the yuzu overtook the dish after the third or fourth bite. Do you think Amanda was right to say that maybe a little olive oil or something like that would have counteracted it?

Peter: I think they definitely, with every round, the judges bring up excellent points. And I definitely agree with her that it does kind of get one-sided after a few bites, but I stand by the dish. I think the flavor profile that I used of the yuzu-white wine just kind of pulled me through.

Chopped host Ted Allen checks in on 13 year old Peter Wenger as he works on his entree that must include: lamb shoulder, bok choy, coconut milk and dates for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

So getting into the entree round, it looked like you were really upbeat — you were doing a little dance before starting. What was your mentality? Were you on a high after getting through the appetizer round?

Peter: I mean, getting through the appetizer round itself was such an exhilarating experience. I mean, though, I can never say I'm happy after that because one of these people that I've known for not that long but that I've considered my friends have gone home, right? So it's never a happy experience, but I was just trying to cheer myself up. And I was thinking and my mind was working and I was like: "OK, Peter, you got this. Let's bring it together and let's pass this round as well."

Amanda called your entree "outside of the box"; she liked the fusion of it. How would you describe how you like to cook at home or how you'd like to cook in the future if you're to become a chef?

Peter: I think that dish specifically was very representative of almost a halfway ground almost between what I like to cook now and where I want to be and what kind of style I want to cook, because it does have very homey elements that I love to incorporate even when I'm doing a very modern dish. But at the same time, I kind of want to develop ... more high-class, very full of flavor and interesting combinations. And that's how I would describe modern food: It's interesting combinations that you wouldn't necessarily pair together, but [that] create amazing flavor profiles.

13 year old Peter Wenger works on his dessert that must include: powdered peanut butter, ice cream sandwiches, marshmallows and curry powder for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

When it came to dessert, what made you decide to do crepes? Is that one of the recipes you came in with? You mentioned you had five dessert ideas.

Peter: I had five ideas ... and I think crepes in general, when you pull them off, they can make a great base for a lot of stuff. And when I saw the basket, I was really thinking, "OK, if it's the correct basket, definitely I'll pull out crepes first." And it was the right basket. ... My mind started working about adding in apples because it complements the curry and doing this kind of this peanut, almost Indian crepe ... and then I realized: "Yeah, OK, let me do a crepe. I'm excited about a crepe, let me do a crepe."

How did you first get interested in cooking and where do you want to take it in the future?

Peter: It's really interesting; I don't really know how I first got interested in cooking. Nobody in my family cooks at all — like, at all. But I guess there's just always somebody in the kitchen and so I guess I sort of always sat around there and hung out. ... The reason I love cooking so much is because it brings people together. Food itself and having a meal, it brings people together, and to be almost like the gatekeeper ... bringing people together and having ... family and friends together to enjoy a meal together is such an important thing to me, and it's great. I love it.

13 year old Peter Wenger stands before Chopped host Ted Allen and judges: Scott Conant, Maneet Chauhan and Amanda Freitag moments after finding out he has become a Chopped Champion and secured a spot in the $25000 tournament for Chopped Teen Week $25,000 tournament, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 25.

Photo by: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Do you have any strategy going into the finale?

Peter: I don't necessarily have a single strategy. It's very much don't let it go to your head, think of this as the first round all over again. There's nothing different about this round than the last rounds. This round I know for a fact that the other people are good. They won their rounds. This round I didn't necessarily know how good they were, but it doesn't really change the fact that when you open the basket, it just kind of like rushes over you — what you're going to do. And I think my strategy really isn't going to change for the next round. It's just: Get everything on the plate, make it look nice, and make it taste good and be creative.

What do you think your friends and family will say when they see you on TV?

Peter: I think they are going to be pretty excited. ... I don't know. I think they are going to be really happy. And ... I'm going to forget to tell some people, because there are a lot of people to tell that I'm going to be on TV. So I'm going to get a lot of calls that are like: "Peter, you're on TV? Oh, my gosh. Why didn't you tell me this?" ... But I'm excited to see how they react.

Tune in for Part 3 of Chopped Teen Tournament on Tuesday at 10|9c.

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