Nicknamed "The Wolf," Chef Lester Walker sets off to prepare a New York City-themed appetizer in honor of his hometown using smoked eel, cream cheese spread, quince paste and haricot verts as mandatory ingredients. Although the judges praise his use of quince and cream cheese atop toast, they question the spice mixture atop his sliced eel, and he's ultimately chopped after the first round.
"My vision was to enhance that smoked flavor [of the eel] by charring the bread and scallions," Chef Elise Kornack said while presenting her appetizer. She serves the panel brown butter-laced smoked eel with an haricot vert salad tossed with charred scallions and cream cheese spread, and Judge Maneet Chauhan says that she "definitely nailed that."
Chef Corwin Kave's appetizer of tom tua, a Thai bean salad, is well received on account of its "proper balance of flavor from the spice and heat," according to Judge Geoffrey Zakarian, but his anti-griddled cream cheese spread is less successful. "It really didn't add to the dish," Judge Maneet says of that element, which is left off of Judge Scott Conant's plate altogether.
With such mandatory entree ingredients as frog legs, yuzu marinde, gin and tofu, Chef Jun Tanaka begins work on caramelized frog legs with fried tofu when the unthinkable happens: He drops all but a few frogs' legs on the floor, forcing him to serve what little he has left. "I know I need to make that one mouthful of frogs' legs so delicious that they all forget everything else," Chef Jun says after the incident.
The standout element of Chef Elise's dish is the gin-spiked vegetable broth that surrounds her yuzu-marinated tofu and buttery frog legs. "Just delicious flavor," Judge Geoffrey remarks of this component, despite wondering if Chef Elise has achieved a marriage in the different features of her plate.
Not only did Chef Corwin offer the judges a full plate of fried frog legs, sesame seed-topped tofu and green chili sauce, but he also serves them a lemon-gin cocktail. Although Judge Scott calls the drink "thoughtful," he ultimately deems it "a complete disconnect," and Chef Corwin is chopped just one course before the finale.
With a dessert basket of jackfruit, Araucana eggs, coconut macaroons and chocolate-covered pretzels at his disposal, Chef Jun creates a clafoutis to pay homage to the eggs. "The way I create dishes is to showcase one particular ingredient," he explains, baking the dish with fresh raspberries, crushed pretzels and jackfruit. "It's like a little bowl of goodness and it makes me happy," Judge Scott tells Chef Jun of his offering.
Chef Elise says that she's hoping to "push the envelope" with her dessert of egg semifreddo served with a basil-coconut macaroon topping. "Being creative and playful — that's going to help me win." Although Judge Geoffrey compliments her on a "modern and abstract" preparation, Chef Elise is ultimately chopped, on account of what Judge Geoffrey calls a "sour-forward" puree of jackfruit.
Chef Jun Tanaka has claimed round-three victory in the Chopped Champions kitchen and will advance to the ultimate finale battle to compete for the title of Chopped Grand Champion and a $50,000 prize. "To beat the winners of Chopped is a fantastic feeling," he says after the competition.