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

Get the exclusive interview with the winner of Battle 2 in the Chopped Teen Tournament.
Show: Chopped

Host Ted Allen stands with teen chefs Samantha Haas, left, and Lyanna Cintron as they face off before the dessert round, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 29.

Photo by: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jason DeCrow, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Chopped has returned with a third season of the popular five-part Teen Tournament. In tonight's second round, four teens entered the prestigious kitchen to try their chances at decoding the mystery baskets. Even advanced practice cannot prepare a chef for the added pressure and time constraints of the competition. And the key to unlocking the ingredients isn't always obvious from the get-go. The teens took the challenge in stride, bringing their raw talent to battle with the hopes of earning one of four spots in the finale. From that final showdown, only one will emerge victorious as the winner of $25,000.

The Baskets

Appetizer: saucisson en croute, quinoa, white harissa, seaweed salad

Entree: squid, lemon candy, kusa squash, shrimp cocktail

Dessert: pirate's breakfast, French pastries, strawberries, citrus soda

Elimination Details
First round: Nathan
Second round: Tommy
Final round: Samantha
Winner: Lyanna
Judges: Scott Conant, Aarón Sánchez, Marc Murphy

Teen chef Lyanna Cintron reacts after winning and advancing to the grand finale, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 29.

Photo by: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jason DeCrow, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

With professional experience under her belt, Lyanna came into tonight's competition with a lot more than her competitors, however, her confidence might not have been at that same level. But after putting out a sausage-and-pepper appetizer that made her rivals jealous and received great comments from the judges, Lyanna was able to enter the entree round even stronger. Facing an unfamiliar ingredient, squid, she still pulled off a successful dish, utilizing the squash as a pasta element, which received a few caveats from the judges. She finally made it into the dessert round, where her pastry experience came into good use. Her crumble-and-compote creation earned high praise from the judges. Despite running out of time to brown her meringue, she did more than enough to prove that she should be the one to earn the second spot in the finale. There she'll face off with Kamryn, the Battle 1 champion, and the winners from the upcoming third and fourth battles.

How did it feel to win?

Lyanna: It’s, like, so surreal. It’s, like, "Is this even happening right now?"

Did you think that you’d make it this far when you were just getting ready this morning?

Lyanna: No. Honestly, I doubted myself, like, a whole bunch, and I thought I would only make it to [the] appetizer round, if that, maybe entree, but I never thought that I would be a winning Chopped Champion, like, this is crazy.

Did you practice before coming on this show?

Lyanna: Yeah, before I came on the show I had my father [help me], and he gave me, like, mystery baskets, and he created them, and we did that ... every week so I could get practice, but every time I did it ... I always had a problem with time management. I never made it in the 30 minutes, and it was like I was always stuck, but then here it was like things just came to me and things were flowing.

Host Ted Allen checks in on Lyanna Cintron as she cooks with squid, lemon candy, kusa squash and shrimp cocktail during the entree round, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 29.

Photo by: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jason DeCrow, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

What would you say was your hardest basket today?

Lyanna: I think my hardest basket was my entree basket, only because I had never cooked with squid before, or I didn’t know what to do with the candies or how to melt it down, and I feel like I had some struggles with it, but I still pulled through.

When you heard the judges say that they loved your squid, what did you think, knowing that you’re not familiar with the ingredient?

Lyanna: When I heard that they loved it, it was ... seriously, like, really? I cooked it to perfection, and I’ve never cooked or tasted this before? ... I’m that good?

There was one point where you said you thought the dish wasn’t up to par. What did you mean by that? Was it referring to the lemon candy sauce or just how things came together?

Lyanna: When I said it wasn’t up to par, I was referring to the candy sauce and also the squash. Like, that’s not how I wanted it to come out, and also that’s not even, like, how my plating started in my head, but I guess I did pretty well. ... I took care of it well.

What made you want to spiralize the squash? What was your vision for that?

Lyanna: I actually wanted to turn it into, like, pasta shapes. ... I knew everybody would do an actual pasta to go with this, but instead I’m, like, "No, let me use the squash as a pasta." But I couldn’t get the mandoline blade to switch, and I think it was broken, but anyway, so I was like, "You know what ... it’s coming out in nice spirals, so let me just do that." But I did not know that it didn’t need to be cooked that much, because regular squash you, you know, you have to cook it with something.

From left, judges Scott Conant, Aaron Sanchez and Marc Murphy and host Ted Allen face teen chefs Lyanna Cintron and Samantha Haas during the dessert round tasting, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 29.

Photo by: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jason DeCrow, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

You pretty much pulled off a near-perfect dessert. How did you come up with the idea for that dish?

Lyanna: I already had an idea in my head to always go for, like, a crust or something, because I’m always good when it comes down to that, and I’m always good with compotes. So, I saw the strawberries, and I saw the bacon and also the fizzy soda, and I’m, like: "OK, this is great. I can do this, this, this." And then I saw the pastries, and that’s where I got stuck, but then I’m like, "Wait, I can toast them and they can become like a crumble," and I could just do that for my crust. And even though my crust didn’t work out, it got so nicely toasted that it worked out as a crumble. So it [felt] as if I was cooking at home with regular ingredients in my kitchen. ... It worked perfectly.

Did you intend to do anything more with the meringue?

Lyanna: I was going to torch the meringue, but my mind was scattered everywhere, and I wanted to make sure I had a garnish on there to, like, present everything nicely just not that dollop of meringue, and then I completely forgot about the torching. So, I was like, dang.

You currently work in a professional kitchen?

Lyanna: Yeah, I work at Carbone. ... I used to do pastries, but now I’m garde manger, so I do, like, seafood crudos and salads.

Where do you see your future going? Do you plan to do more in pastry — become a chef or a restaurateur?

Lyanna: In the future, I know that I want to be able to dabble in both, becoming a chef and a pastry chef. I want to be able to have both ways, like, I’m going to make that happen for me, and not only that, but I’m going to open my restaurant that has a big pastry part of it connected so it’s not just ... pastry on the side. No, it’s going to highlight both, because that’s the explanation of me.

What’s your favorite thing to cook at home during your downtime?

Lyanna: I guess you could say my favorite thing to cook is like, shrimp Alfredo or chicken Alfredo, or if I want to get fancy I’ll make, like, a shrimp Francese. That’s ... the best.

How did you get into cooking? What inspired you?

Lyanna: I think what inspired me is when I was little my grandma always used to cook, and her food came out amazing, and my stepdad always taught me how to cook, and then when I got the chance to be in the kitchen ... it clicked, like, that was everything to me. That was my home.

Lyanna Cintron cooks with saucisson en croute, quinoa, white harissa and seaweed salad during the appetizer round, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 29.

Photo by: Jason DeCrow ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jason DeCrow, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Thinking of the finale, do you have any strategy for winning or anything you want to focus on?

Lyanna: In the finale, I definitely want to show my skills more. I want to work up on them to be able to show them in that certain amount of time so that I’m not rushing around. I want to evaluate my basket properly. I want to do everything up to the best I can because this is the finale, and I need to bring it all, so I have to be ready to bring it all.

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

Lyanna: When they see this competition I think that they’re just going to be, like, speechless because it’s, like, really, I did it. It’s, like, wow, especially with how much I was doubting myself, but everybody said I could do it, and I just never believed it, but I know they’re going be ... ecstatic.

What would you do with the prize money if you won?

Lyanna: I really want to use most of it to further my dream and go to culinary school, but [I] also [want] to give back to others who’ve given to me what I needed.

Tune in to the next battle in the Chopped Teen Tournament on Tuesday at 10|9c.

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