One-on-One with the Chopped Grill Masters, Part 2 Winner
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.
Appetizer: lamb belly, baked beans, flatbread dough, grilled grapefruit
Entree: sea urchin, reginelle, leeks, side of halibut
Dessert: cinnamon rolls, tamarind candies, marshmallows, strawberries
Judges: Marc Murphy, Amanda Freitag, Michael Chiarello
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.
Sophina Uong: The baskets were awesome, just so much harder than I imagined.
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.
SU: I think that I killed it in the first course with the lamb.
SU: My grilling philosophy is to marinate, season really well, cook it at a high heat and let it rest.
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… .
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.