One-on-One with the Chopped Teen Tournament, Battle 1 Winner
Chopped has returned with a third season of the popular five-part Teen Tournament. In tonight's first round, four teens entered the prestigious kitchen to try their hands at decoding the mystery baskets. Even with advanced practice, nothing can 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.
Appetizer: waffle tacos, yogurt-covered pretzels, Broccolini, speck
Entree: capon, purple cabbage, ranch dressing, pizza casserole
Dessert: banana split brownies, avocados, ribbon candy, wasabi peanuts
Judges: Scott Conant, Alex Guarnaschelli, Geoffrey Zakarian
As an avid Chopped viewer, Kamryn was more than excited just to be stepping foot in the Chopped kitchen. After putting her excitement aside, she found a direction for her appetizer course and presented a "Chopped" chopped salad. The only negative comments she received from the judges were that she used too much crushed red pepper and she didn't incorporate the yogurt-covered pretzels well enough. In the entree round, the three remaining teens were surprised to find whole capon in their baskets. Luckily Kamryn had some practice butchering chicken, so she had more time to conceptualize her dish. Braising the cabbage became her main goal, and the judges praised her for cooking both the cabbage and the capon well, but she was heavy-handed with the dried herbs. Despite downplaying her experience with desserts, Kamryn was able to pull off a successful deep-fried treat — the main criticism she received was that she did not find a balance in sweetness. When all the courses were considered, Kamryn was announced the champion, earning a spot in the finale, where she'll face the other three winners of the preliminary rounds.
Kamryn: It feels surreal. I honestly don’t know — it still hasn’t hit me yet. Like, it’s just so much at one time. Today’s been such an intense day, and I can’t wait to come back.
Was there anything different about competing than what you might have imagined or what you’ve seen on TV?
Kamryn: I didn’t think it was going to be this intense. Like, everybody was so talented, and I still can’t believe I won. Everybody ... did so well. ... We all had our own kind of flair to everything, and I just can’t believe I won. It’s insane.
Kamryn: Yes, I did practice before coming on the show. I did a lot of — I tried doing desserts, obviously I didn’t do that well, but ... my dad and I, we practiced. ... I’m really glad I learned how to break down a whole chicken. That came in handy today. ... I did the basics, though, because you can’t really prepare that much for a mystery basket because you don’t know what’s in it. You don’t know what you’re going to get thrown at you, and you just have to be ready to go.
Kamryn: The hardest basket was definitely, well, at first I thought it was the entree, but then I, looking back now I think it was definitely dessert.
You said to the judges at one point that dessert’s not your strongest.
Kamryn: Yeah, dessert is not my strong point, but I’m going to make that my strong point these next couple days.
During the desert round when Ted Allen came over to your station, you told him that you actually had an idea for a change when it came to utilizing the basket ingredients. Do you think you were able to pull off everything that you envisioned?
Kamryn: I was able to pull off everything but my sauce. I forgot about it, and it burned because I had so much of that ribbon candy in there, but in the end I think it’s probably better that I didn’t have that on there because, again, they kind of docked me for some stuff being too sweet, some stuff not being sweet enough, and I think that would have just been more fire, like, ammunition for them to use.
The judges pointed out that you basically repurposed your brownie. Do you think that you could have done something else with it?
Kamryn: Now that I’m thinking about it, I definitely think I could have done something more, but at the same time I don’t really regret the decisions I’ve made, because they ended up working for me, but the next round — [in] the next competition, I’m definitely going to be a lot more creative. So, watch out!
During the entree round, you said that you did practice butchering chicken, which luckily came in handy, but when you presented the dish to the judges, you didn't seem so proud of it. What was going through your mind then?
Kamryn: I knew my sauce was too thick to begin with. I don’t really, not that I don’t like purple cabbage, I’m just not — texturally I don’t enjoy it. And I knew if I cooked it down and then flamed it off I would get a little bit more into it, and it just, it ended up working out for me in my favor. They liked it. The cabbage was actually the best part of that dish, I think, and that’s the part I didn’t like the most, so I think it worked out for me.
You used the word "deconstructed" a lot, which Alex called you out for. Why do you think you used that word to describe some of your dishes?
Kamryn: Because I didn’t feel like they were completely put together, but Alex kept saying, "It’s constructed, stop saying 'deconstructed.'" She’s like, "You have a sauce here, you have ... " But I like that she explained to me what I was doing and how to fix it — how to improve. I really value their criticisms very much, and I’m going to definitely use those to improve.
How would you describe your cooking style overall? What kind of food do you like to make?
Kamryn: I really enjoy making, like, fresh ... pretty colorful ... and just good — like, things that taste good. I don’t really worry too much about ... what it is per se. I care more about what did I do, how did I do it, what’s in here, are my ingredients the best they can be, and I will go from there.
How did you first get interested in cooking? What sparked your fire?
Kamryn: My dad sparked my fire for cooking. I’ve been cooking since I was 4. I got my first knife around that time, and ... it’s been going up ever since.
Thinking of the finale ahead, do you have any strategy that you want to focus on or some of the things you want to achieve when you get there?
Kamryn: I know how to develop flavors. ... I want to focus more on, like, making everything cohesive, making everything work together instead of working against each other. I think that’s going to be my strategy, but overall I think I had a pretty good strategy over in this competition.
What do you think your friends and family will say when they see this competition on TV?
Kamryn: I think my mom and dad are going to, like, cry. ... My friends ... we’ll find out, but I think they’re going to be proud of me too.
Tune in to the next battle of Chopped Teen Tournament on Tuesday at 10|9c.