Chopped Champions, Season 5: Tournament Rounds in Review

Browse highlights from the battles to find out who got chopped and who earned a spot in the finale for a chance to win $50,000.

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Jason DeCrow ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Finale: One More Battle Wins It All

Adam, Deborah, Andre and Meny have proved they're worthy of the championship title by winning their preliminary tournament rounds. Now the four chefs battle one more time. By the end, one will have beaten 15 others to win the title of Chopped Grand Champion, leaving with $50,000 in prize money. Who will rule the baskets? Three rounds of mystery baskets will tell.

Just One Flavor Too Many

"I want the judges to get a feeling of what I grew up on in Israel," says Meny when he sees the appetizer basket of Mangalitsa pork burgers, chow mein noodles, tardivo and blood clams. He presents the panel clams steamed in a pork broth with a tardivo, orange and olive relish, as well as chickpea pancakes that incorporate the chow mein noodles. But the judges find the olives overpowering. "As far as flavors and creativity and technique, I think I pushed it as much as I could," says Meny before he's chopped.

Repeating a Meaty Mistake

"Damn it, he beat me to it," says Deborah after Adam makes off with the grinder to use on the entree basket's leg of lamb. She decides to pound the meat and roast it, but, like in her last battle, she doesn't rest the meat properly. She uses the blue cheese lollipops in her polenta and serves her dish with a Cognac sauce, topped with sweet-and-sour cardoons. Scott points out that her dish "suffers from brown on brown," as did her appetizer. And Angie finds the meat cut incorrectly, which shows Deborah's lack of butchering knowledge.

Ice Cream or Bust

Adam and Andre go head-to-head in the dessert round, cooking with chocoflan, satsuma mandarins, smoked almonds and caramelized onions. "There's something in my head saying 'ice cream,'" says Andre, who immediately runs to the refrigerator to grab the necessary ingredients. Seeing that Adam has the same thought, Andre gets to the machine first. "It's such an interesting ice cream," says Scott of Andre's espresso-and-caramelized-onion combination. "It really works," says Amanda, but she and Angie crave more coffee flavor.

Sundae All the Way

"I'm going a little whimsical," says Adam, deciding to make a sundae. While waiting for the ice cream machine to be free, Adam makes his smoked-almond-and-onion caramel. He uses just the cake part of the chocoflan to stand in for brownies. "Cleaning out this machine is the only thing that matters," says Adam once Andre's out of the ice cream maker. With less than half the round remaining, Adam pulls it off. "The balance of all those things is what makes this special and unique," says Scott of Adam's use of the basket ingredients.

Chopped Grand Champion: Adam Greenberg

"Both of them were very successful in very different ways," Scott says of the chefs during deliberation. Scott points out that Andre's entree lamb was overcooked, whereas Angie notes that Adam's lamb ragout lacked salt. Amanda notes how Andre's appetizer had an unopened clam. And Angie feels Adam didn't transform the chow mein noodles in that round. The judges decide Adam had the more successful dishes, and he is declared the Chopped Grand Champion and winner of the $50,000.

Battle 4: Nothing Vanilla About It

"The vanilla frosting throws me off a little," says Silvia of one of the ingredients in the appetizer basket, which includes stone crab claws, butterfly leaves and peach-strawberry salsa. Making a broth, she feels that the crab and vanilla are a classic combination, but then decides to add saffron as well, which confuses the judges, especially Aarón, who calls her out on its overpowering flavor. It's the reason she's chopped.

Married Into Cooking

"I definitely feel like I have an advantage, because I cook savory food all the time," executive chef Adam says about competing against his wife, Jackie, who is the pastry chef at their restaurant. The two originally competed as a team on a couples' episode. "We are a team, but we are definitely individuals," says Jackie, who wants to prove she can do it on her own. Her goal is to make it into the dessert round, where she feels she'll excel and win the battle.

Meat-and-Potatoes Downfall

A self-proclaimed pork lover, Adam's excited to see rack of wild boar in the entree basket. He turns the dried spicy mango and pina colada into a compote, and cooks the kale down with bacon and onions. He serves the dish over sauteed sliced potatoes, a non-basket item. "This is 100 percent my style of cooking," he says. But Alex notices he's using a lot of rosemary on the boar, and notes its "cough-syrupy taste" after trying it. Aarón feels the potatoes were unnecessary. Adam is chopped.

Dessert Basket of Doom

"Duck mousse? Sea beans?" Jackie says, perplexed by the two savory ingredients in the dessert basket. She decides to make a duck mousse-filled saffron crepe with ganache incorporating the honey and sea beans from the basket. "Jackie knows her way around dessert," Alex points out as she sees the pastry chef move swiftly. "I feel this has a little Mexican energy," Alex says, complimenting Jackie's dish. Aarón finds the crepe airy but finds the sea bean garnish a "throwaway."

Protein-Packed Dessert

"Dessert is not my strong suit, but the only thing that can stop me is myself," Andre says, starting on a duck mousse sponge cake. His batter doesn't come together because of the fatty mousse, so he tosses it and does a saffron sponge cake instead. He ends up melting the duck mousse down with honey and blending it with mascarpone. His sea beans go into his almond brittle, but it doesn't set in time. "Your brittle was not successful," Aarón points out. Angie commends him on his cream's "essence of meat."

Battle 4 Champion: Andre Fowles

"Jackie's presentation on the first one was rough," Alex says about the chef's noodle appetizer. The judges agree that although Andre's curry appetizer had too much dumplings, it was impressive. "I loved the spice rub, but I also liked Jackie's chile sauce," Angie says about the two chefs' spicy renditions of the boar in the entree round. The judges decide to chop Jackie's dessert, which means the last spot in the Champions finale goes to Andre. "I feel awesome. I feel unstoppable," he says.

Battle 3: Too Much, Too Rich, Too Little Time

Raffaele immediately thinks of pâté when he sees chicken livers in the appetizer basket, which also contains cinnamon whiskey, edamame and grape licorice. He purees the licorice into his pâté mixture, but he rushes his presentation when he realizes it's down to the wire. "It just looks sloppy, however, I think it's going to taste the best," he says. Judge Christian Petroni finds the pâté too rich and that there's too much of it. Chris Santos feels Raffaele tried to accomplish too much in 20 minutes. In the end Raffaele is chopped.

False Impressions of Greatness

"I don't think that anybody else around me is going to beat me," says Mo, heading into the entree round, where he faces cooking with duck breasts, harissa, pear frangipane tart and orange sherbet. "The only way I would lose is if I don't deliver," he adds. Inspired by his background, he makes a jerk sauce to envelop the duck. "There are some technical errors here that are marring a dish that could be good," says Geoffrey Zakarian, who points out Mo didn't render the duck fat enough, but Mo says it was intentional.

An Offense to Duck

Geoffrey feels the preparation of the duck is an important criteria. "It's such a balancing act," adds Christian. "You want that skin crispy, but you also want medium-rare." The competitors approach the ingredient properly, but when it comes to resting, it just doesn't happen for any of them. "Either I don't cook it to the temperature I want it to be, or I cook it to the temperature and it bleeds all over," says Deborah as her excuse. The judges end up chopping Mo for not rendering the duck fat properly.

Riding on a Risk and a Prayer

The chefs have bison jerky, sour cream, freeze-dried blueberries and egg waffles in the dessert basket. RoRo decides on a sour cream panna cotta, knowing "it's very risky," he says. He realizes they're not going to set in time and changes gears. "I'm going to put them on the anti-griddle and pray to God they set in time," he says. But it doesn't work and he plates his dessert as a "panna cotta cream." Christian calls it "a pretty good dessert." Chris surprises RoRo with his critique: "This might be my favorite dish you made all day."

Sweet, Tart and Somewhat In Between

"I have to bring everything I have to the table right now," says Deborah, who gets working on a sour cream ice cream right away. "Execution is imperative; no mistakes are allowed," she says, feeling she has to bring her best. But after time is called, she feels she could have put more effort into her apple-blueberry crumble. Discussing the dish, Chris says to Geoffrey, "For you it's overly sweet; for me it's overly tart." But Christian disagrees, liking Deborah's use of apple — its play of sweet and tart.

Battle 3 Champion: Deborah Caplan

Considering all the rounds, the judges decide Deborah had the strongest appetizer, the better of the entrees despite her not resting the duck, and the more complete dessert. RoRo is chopped, and Deborah gains the third spot in the finale. "To win two times is unbelievable," she says. "It's still three more competitors I have to beat, but I'm going to give it everything I have."

Battle 2: Getting a Little Too Comfortable

"Comfort food is my thing, says Georgeann, who's inspired to make pasta fagioli soup from the appetizer basket ingredients: smoked sausage, cavatappi, napa cabbage and frozen yogurt. After plating, she says, "I feel that I've made a good dish, but it also hit me that I went too safe with my dish." Aarón Sánchez calls it "a little uninspired." And Marcus Samuelsson agrees, saying, "It's not memorable." Georgeann is chopped for not bringing more creativity, which her competitors didn't lack.

Defeated by a Single Ingredient

Although Thiago's never worked with beef kidneys, he goes at the basket ingredient wholeheartedly, turning the beets and the petite French lentils from the basket into a side dish. But he runs into an issue with the kidneys: "I start cutting them up, and I see [they're] just raw," he says, putting them back on the heat. "I love everything about this dish except the kidneys," says Alex Guarnaschelli. Aarón commends Thiago on his use of the pickled cockles from the basket, but it's not enough to save him from the chopping block.

Excelling at Creativity, but Failing at Execution

"This is a strange basket," says Dafna, upon seeing the dessert ingredients of queso arrocero, peanut butter chocolate wafers, raspberry spoon fruit and dandelion coffee. She decides to use puff pastry: "I'm taking a huge risk by putting a stuffed pastry in the oven," she says of her sticky buns. But when she looks over at Adam, she says, "I've got this," feeling confident her dish will beat his. During judging Alex tells Dafna, "Your creativity is through the charts." Marcus, however, points out that the dough is raw.

Failing at Plan A and Plan B

Adam decides to make churros, but he immediately has trouble with the pastry bag. "These churros are the center of my dish and I just can't mess these up," he says, cutting the piping tip off and forming the dough into fritters. But his confidence is deflated when he sees Dafna's plate. "I blew it. My plate isn't the best I can do," he says. "I don't see the imagination," Aarón says of the dish. And Alex feels it wasn't smart putting three-quarters of the basket into a chocolate sauce.

Deliberating on a Difficult Decision

The judges take a moment to talk through the chefs' dishes in coming to a decision. "Dafna's appetizer was something that you see almost in a tapas restaurant," says Marcus of the chef's tasty but tiny sopes. Although Alex loved Adam's appetizer, it lacked creativity: "Does my mom's cooking win 50 grand around here?" she asks, rhetorically, implying the appetizer was too homey. Comparing Adam's and Dafna's kidney entrees, Marcus thinks Adam's was the most successful. And both chefs' desserts had issues.

The Battle 2 Winner: Adam Greenberg

Considering all three courses, the judges decide to chop Dafna, which means Adam earns the second spot in the tournament finale. Ted names him a repeat Chopped Champion. "Being a two-time Chopped Champion is an amazing feeling, but there's a bigger goal in sight, and that's to be a Chopped Grand Champion," says Adam. "I know I can win that 50 grand."

Battle 1: Finding Inspiration Outside of the Basket

"I feel very confident about the pig ears," says Stacey about the appetizer basket ingredient, which she plans to deep-fry. She's turning the pretzels into croutons for a salad and incorporating the green romano beans as well. Unfortunately her inspiration to make beer-braised cabbage for a side dish, which includes no basket ingredient, is a bad decision, as it puts her behind. Swiping her puree of papaya, another basket ingredient, onto the plate at the last second, she worries her plates are sloppy.

Misdirected Time Management

"I don't know why you spent so much time on the cabbage," Maneet Chauhan tells Stacey. "It was such a waste of time." And Aarón Sánchez calls out the four chefs for all making croutons out of the pretzels. "You guys are champions," he tells them. "You could have done something with it to bring it to that next level." Although Stacey may have had the best fried pig ears according to Maneet, the judges decide the misplaced cabbage was enough to chop her.

Watch the Highlight: Chopped Champions, Season 5

Lackluster Ingredient Utilization

Faced with grouper, frilly mustard greens, bread cheese and a beer flight in the entree round, both Meny and Daniel make a poaching liquid for the fish and serve the cheese on the side. Elderoy, however, turns the cheese and beer into a fondue, although unsuccessfully, as the cheese doesn't melt. "It was a common theme here: Beat up the mustard greens," Marc says of each chef's decision to cook the greens. The judges find Daniel's uses of the greens and cheese the biggest offenses, and he's chopped.

Vegetables Take a Sweet Route

"I just think this is the most-cruel thing that I've ever seen," says Marc when he sees artichokes in the dessert basket, which also has curry cooking sauce, Lady apples and coconut brittle. "I have a skill to make things taste good," says Elderoy, not fazed by the challenge. He starts on a chocolate cake batter and decides to deep-fry the artichokes, tossing them in sugar, which Maneet loves, but she says, "The apples are underrepresented."

Pizza Time Is of the Essence

"I've got to be creative. I've got to take a risk," says Meny, finding the curry not so bad. He starts cutting out small rounds of pizza dough, saucing them with a combination of white chocolate and the curry. "The worst thing that can happen to me is uncooked pizza," he says, checking the oven constantly and holding off until the last minute to plate them. The judges find the dish highly creative. But Maneet says, "The artichoke did not get the same amount of love" as the other ingredients.

Watch the Highlight: Chopped: Impossible Highlights

The Battle 1 Winner: Meny Vaknin

Elderoy's dessert lands on the chopping block, as it did not represent the basket ingredients as well as chef Meny's dessert; Meny is named the champion of the first battle. "We love your cooking because you're able to cook from your homeland," Aarón tells him. "Stick with that and you'll have a really good chance to win at the finals," he advises. "I'm feeling so good," says Meny, "so ready for the next time."

More Chopped Champions

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