One-on-One with the Chopped: Impossible, Part 1 Winner
In this new Impossible tournament, Chopped is switching up the format: Chefs will compete in three preliminary rounds for a chance to earn a spot in the finale, where the champion will get the opportunity to compete against Robert Irvine in a wild-card round. Just for getting there, the champion will pocket $15,000, but upon beating Robert, he or she will win an additional $25,000, for a total of $40,000.
On tonight's episode, four very accomplished chefs who've competed successfully on Chopped before have returned to take on the most-impossible mystery baskets, but only one of them will earn a spot in the finale for an opportunity to get to Robert.
Appetizer: cheeseburger Bloody Mary, beef fajita meat, whipped topping, flying fish eggs
Entree: mackerel, edible flowers, durian cookies, pork stomach in soy
Dessert: Welsh rarebit, apple teeth, nacho cheese tortilla chips, gumdrops
Judges: Chris Santos, Alex Guarnaschelli, Robert Irvine
Chef Marc came into the competition calm and confident. Despite goading from Robert, he kept his cool and kept on cooking, turning out three dishes that outdid his opponents and earned him the win. In the first Round Marc created an "eggs in purgatory" dish that Ted likened more to hell, because it was so overloaded with cayenne pepper — an accident on Marc's part. For his entree Marc presented mackerel two ways, hot and cold. Alex thought he did the ingredients justice, and Chris was blown away by his utilization of the pork stomach in soy. The dessert round posed the biggest problem for Marc, as he couldn't find his concept until the last five minutes. His take on Southern apple pie was a favorite for Robert. In the end, Marc earned the first spot in the finale and a chance to go up against Robert on Nov. 12.
Marc Anthony Bynum: It feels good to be back. You know, I waited this long, because … they've asked me several times, and I think that right now is just great timing, as far as everything in my life, my career is concerned, to come back and to showcase, and to also promote myself, and to get back into the arena, if you will.
What was the biggest difference competing today, versus your previous three times? Maybe your mindset?
MAB: I think that my mindset was definitely different: more focused, more refined in the plating and the knowledge of what's going on. Not being concerned with the 20 and the 30 and the 30 [minutes], but just focusing on the dish, focusing on the plate, and not really caring about time. I think that the first three times, you know, maybe the clock was a big factor, but not even paying attention to the clock. Just knowing what I'm doing and staying focused on it, and focusing on the food, the dish. Because at the end it's about the food, the dish, not the clock.
Do you think your previous experience helped you this time, to become more focused, doing it as many times as you have?
MAB: Yeah. The experience — repetition is the father of learning. So, with that said, the more we repeat things, you know, it definitely gave me a one up. I was the only two-time Chopped champion that was here, being on it three times. So, I think it's more familiar to me, for sure.
MAB: I think that the hardest basket probably was the first one … the flying fish eggs with the fajita meat. I think that [threw me for] a loop. Everything else was pretty much straightforward. ... I think with the fajita meat it was more difficult because it was already cooked. It was already done, seasoned and everything.
When you were presenting that dish to the judges, Robert said that he psychoanalyzed you a little bit, and he said that he found you nervous. What was going through your mind when you heard that?
MAB: I'm really not nervous, so … that was him trying to play a game with me, and, you know, in the heat of battle … you really want to try and get a one up. And as far as [being] nervous, like … I laughed. It was funny to me, because of course this is going to happen to me. It's not nervousness. … That was a jab on his part, and, you know, I jabbed back.
What dish do you think you were most proud of putting in front of the judges?
MAB: I think the last two dishes … . The mackerel. I really liked the mackerel, even the [pork stomach in soy]. That was great. I like the way it came out. And even with the dessert, the crunchy and the sweet. I'm a sweet person. So, I was very comfortable, and very happy with both dishes.
With the mackerel, you decided to do it two ways. Did you ever second-guess yourself? The judges were divided with their opinion on that, the fact that it was partly a cold item and a hot item. Did you think about the repercussions of that?
MAB: I don't think I would second-guess it if it was, you know, hindsight being 20/20. I would still do it again, just because, you know, that just shows the difference in the mackerel. Like when I do tuna two ways at my restaurant — I do a tuna tempura, but I also do a tuna sashimi. So, that's hot and cold, and, you know, it works. It works in other arenas, so I don't [see a reason] why it wouldn't work here … .
Alex really hit home on the fact that you left the bloodline in the fish. Was that an honest mistake on your part?
MAB: That was an honest mistake on my part. You know … it's a mistake that I made. I won't make it again, but it's a mistake that I made.
What was going through your mind when Robert came into the dessert round and he told you that you'd better use everything, that you can't just put aside the marshmallows or the peanut butter in the apple teeth?
MAB: When he came in and he did that, I just wanted clarity. I just wanted to make sure, like that's why I asked about the crust. I was like, “So, you want me to use the crust too?” That's what we're supposed to do, that's what I'm used to doing, so it wasn't like he really threw a monkey wrench in there. What he did do was help me to think about every piece that was there and make sure I incorporated it … so he helped me in that regard, because … there are two things that helped me win this match. That was the caramel, which he helped me with, and then also the pig [stomach in soy], which I won with.
Do you think if he hadn't come in at that point and told you those things, your dessert would have been different?
MAB: It wouldn't have had the marshmallows, probably so, and I probably wouldn't have put the cheese in the caramel. So, yes. So, thank you. Thank you, Robert.
Do you think that sealed the win for you in this case?
MAB: Among other things. I think it helped. I don't think one thing wins [for] you, you know, the grand champion, or the round. So, it was one of many things.
What do you think was the strongest component of your dessert? You mentioned being inspired by your father's Southern background, and thinking about it as the apple pie with the cheddar cheese crust. What were you most proud of in that dessert?
MAB: I think it was the nacho chips and the brittle … that I made with the pecan and stuff like that. I think it really went well, and I tasted it, you know, and it was really good. Like, I liked everything on the dish, you know, but that right there, I think, [is what] I'm most proud of … .
Do you have any strategy going into the finale, facing Robert specifically, or any things you'd want to do differently?
MAB: Don't underestimate your opponents. Before I get to Robert, there are two other opponents who I must get through. So, I'm focused on them, before I can focus on Robert. Robert is a different championship in and of itself. Before I can do that, I must get to the other two. So that's my focus. Don't count your eggs before they hatch … .
If you get to the point, though, where you're facing Robert in the end, how do you think you'll be able to beat him? What are your strengths that you think he doesn't have?
MAB: I'm just going to beat him with great food … . So, I'm not going to change anything, and the strategy is just to do what I do, and like I've said before, do what I do, and do it well. Let the food speak, and then everything else will just run its course. But the food has to be at a place in order for me to win, and that's my focus. So even when I'm facing Robert, I'm not thinking about Robert, I'm thinking about the food that's going to beat Robert.
What would you plan to do with the winnings if you do win?
MAB: That's going to go [toward] the down payment on my house for my boys. You know, my wife needs some space to herself, my boys need some space to themselves, and I think they've lived in what my wife calls a dorm long enough. You know, we own it, but I rent downstairs. So, we live upstairs. So, it's time to move. It's definitely time to move.
Tune in next week to find out who earns the next spot in the Chopped: Impossible finale for a chance to beat Robert for up to $40,000.