One-on-One with the Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay, Part 2 Champion
In the new Chopped tournament, 12 former Chopped champions are getting the chance to go up against Bobby Flay in battle. In every round, four chefs compete to earn a spot in the finale, at the end of which one single champion will get the opportunity of a lifetime, to cook head-to-head against a Food Network great. With $40,000 on the line, the stakes are high, the pressure is on and the cooks are ready to show what they've got. In Part 2, chefs Corey Morris, Heather Borden, Shania Thomas and Seis Kamimura cooked for their lives, but only one earned the win and the second spot in the tournament's finale.
Appetizer: tropical fruit in a can, Delfino cilantro, abalone, Fresno peppers (Bobby's choice)
Entree: whole Alaskan king crab, purple snow peas, lemon icebox cake, corn nuts (Bobby's choice)
Dessert: licorice-flavored liqueur, plums, cinnamon bun pancakes, creme fraiche (Bobby's choice)
Seis came into battle with a goal in mind: to show off his Asian flavors, which he knows are mostly foreign to Bobby Flay. He paired that goal with expert French technique in his three courses, starting off with an abalone croquette in the appetizer round. His biggest error was letting the abalone get lost in the croquette. Heading into the entree round, he knew once he saw king crab that he wouldn't be making that same mistake. He let the individual basket ingredients shine while creating a harmonious dish that the judges had mostly positive things to say about; the only minor point of contention was Bobby’s wish that he would have used the corn nuts texturally. In the dessert round, Seis created a dish that Bobby loves, a plum panna cotta with a pancake crumble that could have been a touch crisper. But taking into account both chefs' three courses, the judges found Seis' to be superior. Seis leaves a Chopped Champion, earning the opportunity to battle again in the finale, where he'll go up against Part 1 winner Demetrio Zavala as well as next week's Part 3 winner. One of them will have the chance to battle — and possibly beat — Bobby Flay.
Seis Kamimura: It’s kind of nerve-racking, but at the same time it’s exhilarating, because I know what we’re here for. We’re here to compete against Bobby Flay, so that gives an extra rush to it.
SK: I think, honestly, I felt there was less nerves, because I knew what to expect in terms of … I should say the pomp and circumstance, just the way the flow goes. So that’s kind of one of those things out of your head, all those X factors that you learned. … Then I could really focus on the cooking aspect of it, so that was a little bit of a refreshing change in this round.
Bobby hasn’t competed here before. Do you think that gives you an advantage, knowing your way around the kitchen?
SK: You know, that’s a good question. I’ve competed before, and he hasn’t. I don’t think it matters to Chef Flay. He’s competed before, whether it’s in a Chopped kitchen, and great athletes and great competitors will tell you it sometimes matters, but really it’s just about you and how you prepare for this matchup. Whether it’s in a Chopped kitchen [or] whether it’s on an Iron Chef stage, it’s competition.
What did you think of the baskets? Was there any ingredient that threw you off?
SK: The abalone, even though I’ve worked with it before. It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to do some preparation to it, so some of the traditional ways I didn’t think was enough, some of it was too much, so that kinda threw me for a loop a little bit, and it was one of the things I kind of missed out a little bit in terms of amounts.
How did you settle on the concept for your entree, which the judges hardly critiqued?
SK: I’ve been fortunate enough as a chef to be able to work with some great ingredients, and king crab is one of them, so inherently it becomes a personal thing. I don’t like it dry, so, you know, we had it in shell, but I think I go for solid flavor combinations that I think all chefs would understand, and bouillabaisse was the first thing, because I did train at the French Culinary Institute and French food was in my background, so I felt like that was a great use of some of the ingredients that were there, and I thought that would be a great combination.
What was the dish that you were the most proud of today?
SK: The dish I was most proud of today was the entree. I felt that I took the critique from the first round …. [In] the appetizer round, I think, most chefs [who have competed] will say that it’s a crapshoot a little bit. You really don’t … you can’t tell, because there’s no point of reference, so once I was able to hear the individual judges’ critiques and kind of what they’re thinking of, that’s when I felt like I could make some differences in the entree round.
When you saw the dessert basket, what were some of the ideas that came into your head? Was panna cotta one of the first ones?
SK: So, when I was looking at the dessert, ice cream is always on the forefront, because I’ve done it before, but I had a feeling that Chef Cory was going to go with it, and then I swapped out when I was looking at it, right into panna cotta, because I know it’s something that I can do, and I’ve used the agar before in that kind of way.
Do you have any strategy going into the finale? You may possibly face Bobby if it comes to that. How do you plan to beat him?
SK: I think some of the strategy I have is just preparation. I haven’t really watched him compete in a long time, other than Iron Chef, which has been quite a while, so I need to start looking at what his sensibilities are, what he favors … . The judges are fierce, and I think they all have … their likes and dislikes, and not that I’m going to play to each one, because I have to play to what I do, but there’s things that people know you kind of don’t do, like put a lot of raw onions or something, so you don’t want to self-sabotage. You want to make sure, because any little mistake here is picked up and it will be dragged through the mud. So, you really just got to be careful.
SK: You know, everybody’s got to think they have the edge, but I think I do, being Asian but also understanding technique on the French side and doing things that are newer, too. … But I’m going to give it my all and use everything I have in my repertoire to make it happen.
What would you do if you won, and what would you do with the prize money?
SK: The prize money, it’s for my family. I can’t state that enough. … All that time that I’ve spent away from them and working and not spending time with them, it’s some sort of small consolation in a sense of things, but that’s what I would do, I would set up something for them for college or things that they need, because that’s what I can do as a provider.
Tune in for Part 3 of the Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay tournament next Thursday at 9|8c.