One-on-One with the Chopped Grill Masters, Part 2 Winner

Get the exclusive interview with the winner from Part 2 of the Chopped Grill Masters tournament.
Show: Chopped

Chefs Christopher Schobel, Karen Mitchell and Sophina Uong during Round 2 deliberation, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Grill Masters Special.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Last night Chopped Grill Masters continued with Part 2 of the five-part grilling and barbecuing tournament. In each of the four preliminary rounds, four expert grillers, barbecuers and chefs from across the nation compete for four spots in the finale, where only one will win the grand champion title. In this second part, four fierce competitors took up the challenge, but in each round one chef got knocked out; in the end, only one remained, winning $10,000 and going on to the finale for a chance at an additional $50,000 in cold, hard cash. Hear from the Chopped Champion.

The Baskets

Appetizer: lamb belly, baked beans, flatbread dough, grilled grapefruit

Entree: sea urchin, reginelle, leeks, side of halibut

Dessert: cinnamon rolls, tamarind candies, marshmallows, strawberries

Elimination Details
First round: Nate Berrigan-Dunlop
Second round: Karen Mitchell
Final round: Christopher Schobel
Winner: Sophina Uong

Judges: Marc Murphy, Amanda Freitag, Michael Chiarello

Chef Sophina Uong, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Grill Masters Special.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Sophina came into the competition hoping to prove to herself and everyone in her life that she could beat the best of them for a chance at the win. And she succeeded round by round. For the appetizer dish she was the only competitor not to grill the flatbread, but the decision backfired, as Amanda would have preferred it grilled. Luckily, that wasn't enough to prevent Sophina from advancing to the entree round, where she did a great job of showcasing the sea urchin. The only critique was that her halibut skin got soft instead of staying crispy. Going into the dessert round, Sophina was confident she had the win in the bag, believing her skills to be more advanced than Christopher's. Unfortunately, both chefs slightly burned the cinnamon rolls. And Sophina's decision to smoke the marshmallows made them all but disappear in the finished dish, according to the judges. Despite the critiques, Marc couldn't get enough of the smoked strawberries, and in the end her dessert edged out Christopher's. Sophina survived the chopping block, winning $10,000 and a spot in the finale, where she'll face last week's winner, Jonathon Sawyer, and the next two Chopped Champions for a chance to win an additional $50,000.

What did you think of the basket ingredients?

Sophina Uong: The baskets were awesome, just so much harder than I imagined.

Chef Sophina Uong preparing her dish for Round 3, Grilled Caramel Cinnamon Bun with Smoked Strawberry & Pineapple Salsa with Tamarind Cream & Mascarpone, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Grill Masters Special.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Which basket did you think was the hardest?

SU: I think the dessert basket was the hardest for me. After the second round, I kind of overthought everything. ... The hardest part of the dessert basket, I think, were the cinnamon rolls, because I had already fried the dough, and I wasn’t really thinking that I could bake the cinnamon roll in time to transform it into something else.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

SU: I wish I would’ve slowed down and really thought about dessert before I started cooking, before I started making all these accents and I had forgotten what the base of the dessert should have been.

Chef Sophina Uong preparing her Round 1 dish, Grilled Lamb Belly Salad on a Grilled Grapefruit & Baked Bean Puree with Feta, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Grill Masters Special.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

What dish were you most proud of?

SU: I think that I killed it in the first course with the lamb.

What is your grilling philosophy?

SU: My grilling philosophy is to marinate, season really well, cook it at a high heat and let it rest.

What did it mean for you to compete?

SU: I competed today because I just wanted to prove to myself that I could win, and that I would have to overcome a lot more obstacles just believing in myself, which is part of this process, this talking-out-loud kind of process and getting outside of my head and my comfort zone… .

Chef Sophina Uong preparing her Round 2 dish, Grilled Halibut with Reginelle, Pancetta, Sea Urchin, & Grilled Radicchio Salad, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Grill Masters Special.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Do you have a strategy, going into the finale?

SU: Going into the finale, my strategy is to be more focused on my dishes, to bring a lot more flavor and not hold back.

If you do end up winning in the finale, what are you planning to do with the prize money?

SU: If I win the $50,000, I will be going to Cambodia with my daughter and my fiance.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Chopped Grill Masters tournament, next Tuesday at 10|9c, to find out who earns the third spot in the finale.

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