In this second round of Chopped All-Stars, Chefs Chuck Hughes, Gavin Kaysen, Elizabeth Falkner and Richard Blais 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 All-Stars finale, in which the winner will leave with 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.
Chef Elizabeth decides to make a pan-seared black sea bass with black garlic puree and a wakame fumet. Unfortunately she forgets to score the fish and the judges call her out on it. Marcus is so impressed with the broth that he says he'll be sure to use cream soda the next time he makes broth.
Chef Gavin wants to focus on simplicity and finesse, so he decides to make a crudo served with wakame and cream soda dashi and black garlic puree. As a finishing touch, he adds sliced jalapeno and a drizzling of hot peanut oil. Maneet loves the heat buildup, but Chris disagrees. Marcus thinks Gavin could have sliced the fish more evenly.
Chuck is surprised to find out the cream soda is pink. He uses it to make a tempura for the fish. He cooks the soda, wakame and black garlic into a glaze inspired by General Tso's chicken. Unfortunately it doesn't thicken enough and turns out more like broth. He tops the dish with crispy fried fish skin, which the judges really like, but they find the overall dish too sweet.
Richard loves black sea bass and decides to do a crudo with cream soda-pickled mustard seeds and black garlic and Italian sausage aioli. He tops the dish with sliced jalapeno and only later realizes his dish is awfully similar to Gavin's. Maneet calls his dish "simplicity and complexity together on the plate." The only criticism is it could have used a bit more salt and acidity.
Embracing the fruit cocktail, Chef Richard uses its syrup to caramelize and glaze the oxtail. He makes chutney out of the remaining fruit, cooks the mustard greens and turns the labaneh into a puree with white beans. The judges disagree on the value of the chutney but agree that the oxtail has amazing flavor.
Chef Gavin decides to make a beef stew with layered flavors. He makes a mostarda out of the fruit cocktail and plates it up in quenelles on the rim of his bowls. Next to that, he has breadcrumbs and labaneh that he creamed with herbs. This creates a cheese course on the side. Marcus is impressed with how Gavin turned "a peasant dish into a four-star dish," but the judges are disappointed he didn't integrate all the ingredients.
Having never worked with oxtail, Chef Elizabeth feels reassured that it's precooked. She braises the chunks of meat further in wine with the fruit cocktail, mustard greens and some savory spices. Then she purees the labaneh with potatoes to serve underneath the oxtail. The judges love the puree, but they aren't impressed with the presentation, which leads them to chop her.
The Mexican chocolate makes Chef Gavin immediately think of making ice cream with the peanut brittle folded in, but the cakes give him pause. He ends up toasting them to create a crumble. Gavin wants to create a granita out of the grape tomatoes, but Chef Richard has control of the anti-griddle, which Gavin needs to freeze the dessert. With some last-minute rushing, he's able to freeze the granita and turn out a dessert that the judges find comforting, however, safe.
The judges are on the edges of their seats watching Chef Gavin and Chef Richard race around the kitchen in the dessert round. From what they're seeing, they know to expect nothing but the most unique dishes. Time is ticking away, and the judges wonder whether the chefs will be done in time.
With fond memories of eating snack cakes as a kid, Chef Richard dives into creating a unique dessert that highlights them. He makes mini cakes in the microwave using a silicon muffin pan that he cut slits into. Even though Richard's goal was to break the mold, the judges thought his dessert lacked harmony and nostalgia, so he is chopped. Read Richard's interview on FN Dish.
Impressing the judges with his successful control over the basket ingredients and his resulting dishes displaying harmony and balance, Gavin scores the second spot in the All-Stars finale for a chance at winning $50,000 for charity. Read Gavin's interview on FN Dish.