Season 14, Episode 5

Chopped Champions: Finale

In the grand finale of the Chopped Champions tournament, four two-time winners stride into the kitchen with their eyes on the big prize: $50,000! Some fresh surprises and a baked good challenge the champs in the first round. Then after saying goodbye to the first chef, the competition takes a slimy turn with sea snails in the basket. And with expectations and pressure sky-high, what will the two chefs who have managed to make it through nine rounds of cooking manage to do with carrot juice and honeycomb for dessert?
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Champions vs. Chopping Block

Now two-time Chopped victors Chefs Vinson Petrillo, Rob Evans, Kenneth Johnson and Jun Tanaka are no strangers to the kitchen. They've successfully outcooked the chopping block before, but the competition has never been more intense than it is in this Grand Finale battle with fellow champions.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Approaching the Appetizer

In their first-course baskets, the chefs find pig ears, ramps, pine nuts and apple strudel, an exceptionally sweet ingredient that will be challenging to incorporate alongside the other savory picks. Chef Kenneth gets to work washing the ramps, which he will feature in a vinaigrette atop an arugula salad with crispy pigs ears.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Risky Ravioli

With just six minutes on the clock, Chef Rob preps homemade pasta dough to be made into what he calls "freeform ravioli to tie all the basket ingredients together." His fellow competitors and the judges alike are impressed with his decision to take on such a challenge with little time. "To see him creating pasta in this first round is quite unbelievable," Judge Amanda Freitag remarks.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Focused and Fearless

Although he's struggled with nerves in the Chopped kitchen before, Chef Vinson is calm and confident during the first round of this battle. "Today feels different," he says. "It's about food. It's about determination." Here he's multitasking his appetizer preparation by sauteing honey-apple strudel croutons at the same time he drizzles olive oil into what will be a ramp pesto.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Could Have Been Crispier

Judge Amanda applauds Chef Vinson's "creativity level" in making "pig candy," sweetened sauteed pigs' ears, though she notes that it's a bit too hard. But "the strudel is a little disappointing" to Judge Geoffrey Zakarian. "It wasn't crispy," he says. "It was not a crouton."

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.


Before being called to the judges' table, the chefs take a moment to look at what they've completed in only 20 quick minutes and mentally pit their dishes against their competitors'. "I look over at Vinson's dish, and it's beautifully plated. That's the plate to beat," Chef Jun notes.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Early Inspiration

"I grew up eating Japanese food, so I'm excited that I can show a different side to my repertoire," Chef Jun says of his plans for the entree round. With such must-use entree ingredients as abalone, curry leaves, Serrano ham and amaranth grain, he'll prepare a broth of lemongrass and dashi with abalone and shiitake mushrooms and top it with a fried grain-coated poached egg.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Meaningful Praise

From Judge Alex, Chef Rob receives perhaps his highest compliment of the competition so far. "I don't have a thing to say to you," she tells him of his scaloppini-style dish. "I can't believe this dish. It really, really works. What I can say to you is that this is the way to get to $50,000. The first course was not."

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Duo of Abalone

Chef Vinson opts for a side-by-side showing of fried and raw sunomono-style preparations of the abalone — "expensive, giant snails" according to host Ted Allen — but his plan proves less than successful. "I was picking through and trying to find the good stuff," Judge Alex says of his dish made of "pieces." Chef Vinson is ultimately chopped with just one round left.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Finale Face-Off

After surviving eight rounds of cooking, only a single dessert course stands between Chefs Rob and Jun from $50,000 and the title of Chopped Grand Champion. Opening their baskets for the last time, they find carrot juice, almond flour, candied ginger and honeycomb.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Contemporary Cuisine

In keeping with his style of modernist cooking, Chef Rob creates a chilled carrot gelee topped with almond foam and cinnamon-scented French toast in what he calls a "component" plate. Judge Alex tells him that "There's something about the ritual that you've required us to do here that resonates with me deeply," but given the plate's presentation, she later questions whether the dish is in fact a dessert.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Lessons From Mom

The frangipane that Chef Jun prepares as his third-course offering is inspired by both his appreciation of French desserts and the baking classes he watched his mother teach when he was a child. In reviewing Chef Jun's almond-scented cakes, Judge Geoffrey Zakarian notes, "The little man that was paying attention to his mom's baking class really got baking."

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Last Deliberation

The judges' panel agrees that Chef Rob's entree offering far surpasses Chef Jun's, but the former's dessert — despite its creative elements — "didn't really come together cohesively," according to Judge Alex. In the end, after six Champions baskets and two Chopped victories, Chef Rob is chopped.

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

Chopped's Newest Grand Champion

Chef Jun Tanaka is ultimately named the Chopped Grand Champion and claims a $50,000 prize that he'll use to start his own restaurant. "I can't believe that I'm the Grand Champion," he says excitedly. "I'm going to take that accolade back to Britain and take it to the next level."

Photo By: David Lang ©2011, Television Food Network, G.P.

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