In this first round of Chopped All-Stars, Sunny Anderson and Jeff Mauro from Food Network and Nadia G. and Gabriele Corcos from Cooking Channel must battle it out in the Chopped kitchen and face the unexpected challenges of working with the mystery basket ingredients. It's for a chance to win a spot in the finale, in which the winner will receive a $50,000 donation to the charity of his or her choice. Click through to the end to get interviews with the winner and the runner-up.
Jeff decides to make a tartine (a French open-face sandwich) for his appetizer. He grills the banana bread and tops it with the veggie terrine and a salsa made out of the galangal, which he calls "pico de galangal." He incorporates the mango juice with sour cream to create a sauce. The judges appreciate the fresh flavors in his dish but wish he would have done more to transform the terrine.
Gabriele immediately thinks of making a frittata out of the veggie terrine. Going with the breakfast theme, he decides to sear slices of the banana bread in a galangal-flavored butter and serves up the mango juice in shot glasses. He thinks of it as the perfect breakfast in bed to serve his wife. The judges like the frittata but are disappointed he didn't better incorporate the mango juice, which Chris doesn't try, as he says, "because what's the point?"
Sunny makes a succotash with the veggie terrine and serves it with a sauteed banana bread top drizzled with mango and galangal reduction. During cooking, Sunny burns the banana bread, but she is able to save it by cutting off the charred bits. The judges appreciate the flavors of the dish, but they aren't happy with the plating of the banana bread.
Nadia is the only competitor to incorporate all the ingredients into one cohesive dish. Her croquettes are made from the veggie terrine, use the banana bread as the breading, and have a mango and galangal reduction on the side. There is one thing missing from Geoffrey's plate, however, and it's a croquette. Nadia's last-minute dash to fry the croquettes and plate them results in one ball rolling off the table just as time runs out. Despite the success of her dish, she is ultimately chopped.
The judges are really impressed with how well the competitors did in the first round, especially with "one of the hardest appetizer baskets I've ever seen," Ted says. And the best part is, they got to see members of the network family competing together, working with the same odds.
Jeff decides to make a "sandwich" with the venison. He cuts up the rack and grills the chops individually. Then he stuffs the meat into the pierogies, calling them "dainty and elegant" sandwiches. Chris finds it funny that Jeff "can't help himself." The judges generally agree that he did a good job, but the sauce made from the seafood pepper pot soup did nothing to disguise the fishy flavor.
Sunny decides to make a gumbo, inspired by her time in New Orleans, using the venison and the okra. But she doesn't incorporate the seafood pepper pot soup or the pierogies into the same dish; instead, she chooses to make fried pierogies with a seafood pepper pot dipping sauce. The judges commend her for coming up with a flavorful gumbo in 30 minutes and think she treated the soup very well, but they're disappointed she didn't turn out one harmonious dish.
Inspired by memories of hunting deer with his dad in the Alps, Gabriele decides to make a Bolognese. At first he isn't sure what to do with the pierogies, but he ends up thinking of them as ravioli and boils them. He finishes early and enjoys a glass of wine with a snack, which the judges find hilarious. The fact that he left the pierogies untreated, coupled with his failure to reimagine the banana bread and mango juice in the appetizer round, leads the judges to chop Gabriele.
Sunny decides to make bread pudding for dessert with melted marshmallows and chocolate as a base. Time gets away from her and she scrambles to bake the dessert in the few minutes left. Meanwhile, she makes an alcoholic smoothie. Once the bread puddings have baked, she tops them with caramelized Okinawan potatoes, Calvados sauce and toasted coconut flakes. The judges find her drink too alcoholic, but they commend her for making a bread pudding in such a short time.
Inspired by cereal bars, Jeff makes sweet-and-salty "goo balls." He fries sliced Okinawan potatoes, combines them with coconut flakes and melted marshmallows and serves them with Calvados cream. Maneet says salting the chips was a great idea to "cut the sweetness." But overall the judges thinks it's a borderline snack and Jeff gets chopped. Read Jeff's interview on FN Dish.
Outcooking all of her Food Network and Cooking Channel colleagues in the Chopped kitchen, Sunny scores the first spot in the All-Stars finale for a chance at winning $50,000 for charity. "This proves to me that if you put your mind to it, and you put your heart into it, you can win," says Sunny. Read Sunny's interview on FN Dish.