One-on-One with the Chopped Teen Tournament, Battle 3 Winner
Chopped has returned with a third season of the popular five-part Teen Tournament. In tonight's third round, four teens entered the hallowed kitchen to try their luck at cooking with the mystery baskets. But even the most-practiced chef can get shaken when it comes to the added pressure and time constraints of the competition. Sometimes minute-by-minute strategizing is what it takes to come out with four dishes by the end. But the teens took up the challenge and brought their 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: Korean short ribs, apple green tea cooler, Brussels sprouts, Gorgonzola dolce
Entree: skate wing, rainbow pasta, bok choy, giardiniera
Dessert: pate a choux, cherry tomatoes, balsamic jelly, chocolate milk
Judges: Scott Conant, Maneet Chauhan, Aarón Sánchez
With a background in the performing arts, and an insatiable love for cooking, Gabriel entered the competition already thinking of himself as the champion. Even though a few cuts and critiques shook him up along the way, he preserved and came back stronger in each round. The judges deemed his appetizer dish artistic but found his addition of bell peppers needed more of a purpose. In the entree round, Gabriel pulled off the perfect execution of the skate wing, but his use of raw onions drew Scott's wrath. When it came to desserts, Gabriel was prepared with a plan to honor his mom with a bread pudding. But the basket ingredients didn't necessarily fit the dish, and the judges didn't hold back on critiques. Still Gabriel pulled off a textbook ice cream, and it was enough to put him in the lead. Gabriel earned the third spot in the grand finale, where he'll face off with Battle 1 Champion Kamryn, Battle 2 Champion Lyanna and the winner from the upcoming fourth battle.
Gabriel: I feel really amazing. I’m just really proud of myself, and now I actually proved to myself that I’m an amazing chef — even though in the beginning I thought I was, but now I feel like I’m even more amazing.
Did you do any practicing before coming on the show?
Gabriel: Yes, I definitely practiced when I found out that I was going to be on this show and even before, because I was confident that I would be able to go on this show, and practicing was really fun because I was doing something that I love anyways, so it ... wasn’t very hard. It was very enjoyable to practice.
Was there anything different about actually competing today than what you might have imagined?
Gabriel: This was totally different than what I imagined because on TV all you really see is some other person competing, and you don’t feel any emotion, but when I was here, it’s just, this show literally exercises you physically and mentally, and that was a really big shock for me.
Gabriel: I think the hardest basket was ... the entree basket because of the colorful pasta, the rainbow pasta, and nobody, including myself, did something well with it, and it was really difficult, but I was confident that everything else on my plate was really good.
There was a point where Scott really got upset about your use of onions in the entree. What made you decide to use so much onions and leave them raw?
Gabriel: I think I forgot that I put onions in the frisee already, but now knowing — having the criticism that he gave me, I could just apply it next time when I’m on Chopped.
There was also a point where Maneet said you looked really sad when you presented your entree, because you had cut your finger in the last few minutes. Why were you so upset, and why did it throw you off so much?
Gabriel: I was upset because I felt that they weren’t going to be able to taste my dish, because when I was squeezing the lemon I could feel a little sting. So, that indicated that I did have a cut, but it wasn’t bleeding or anything, but it just — I wasn’t upset at anyone. I was kind of disappointed because I came so far, and I’m here to win. And it’s just hard to know that, "Wow, am I going to lose right at this moment?" But I’m really excited. Maybe I’m not showing it as much, but I’m really excited.
Have you worked with skate before, and what made you decide to deep-fry it?
Gabriel: I’ve never worked with skate, and I didn’t want to put a heavy batter on it, so I tried to make a tempura batter, because it’s nice, light and fluffy, which is resembling what the skate is actually like. It falls apart easily, and I thought tempura frying the skate was a really good plan.
When it came to dessert, did you have any other ideas for using the pate a choux, or were you set on making a bread pudding?
Gabriel: Coming into the round, I was set on making a bread pudding, but when I got the pate a choux I knew what it was, and I knew pretty much how to make it, but since the judges always ask to transform things, I said, "I guess I can’t make a profiterole or an eclair." So I just made the bread pudding.
When Scott was commenting on the ice cream, he led by saying, “Don't ever make this again.” And you looked like you were thinking, "Oh no, what is he going to say?" What were you thinking at that moment?
Gabriel: I got really scared, and my heart kind of sank, because I said, "Wow, this is how it’s going to end." But it was funny after the fact that he said it was really good.
Do you think you’d try making ice cream again after that?
Gabriel: Definitely, but I’m not sure if it would come out the way it did, but I would definitely do it again.
How would you describe your cooking style, and what kind of foods do you like to make?
Gabriel: I like to make food based on my Hispanic heritage, but sometimes with the basket ingredients I can’t really do that, and there's a better approach. So, my cooking style is pretty different, and it’s based on the ingredients that I have.
Gabriel: When I was little I had the little plastic play kitchen, and I guess I was curious to how cooking with real food was since my mom cooked every day, and she still does. And I just decided to try cooking, and I fell in love with it, and that’s how I’m here today, because I just built on that interest.
Thinking of the finale ahead, do you have any strategy or anything you want to focus on, any mistakes you want to avoid?
Gabriel: I’m going to try my best to not think extremely out of the box and also to not be very disappointed, because that’s not good … .
What do you think your friends and family will say when they see this competition on TV?
Gabriel: I think the emotions that I had today will just come back, and my mom definitely, since she was here watching it, she would feel it as well, but I think they would be very proud of me. They will be very proud of me.
Tune in to the next battle in the Chopped Teen Tournament on Tuesday at 10|9c.