At the start of the battle, Chef Kris Wessel and his competitors open their appetizer-round baskets to find sour apple martini mix, fennel, mortadella and white asparagus. With these, Chef Kris makes poached eggs with steamed asparagus and rendered mortadella, although he's ultimately chopped after the first round, on account of flavors that Judge Amanda Freitag deems "not enough."
Just moments into the battle, Chef Rob Evans begins work with a machine — this time a juicer — which will come to define his second appearance on Chopped. Here he juices tart green apples to infuse freshness into the sour apple martini mix, which will be featured in a deconstructed vinaigrette atop blanched asparagus and pickled fennel.
For his appetizer, Chef Jean-Louis prepares a coulis made with both the bulb and greens of the fennel, plus grilled asparagus and sauteed mortadella. Although Chef Amanda calls the meat "a little clunky," she says that the coulis "just screamed classical," and he ultimately advances to the entree round with Chefs Rob and Helen.
After working with chicken liver in his previous Chopped competition, Chef Jean-Louis is surprised to find something similar this round. Here he sears the liver without breading and serves it with sauteed greens and a mushroom-honey wine sauce that Judge Aarón Sanchez says "really keeps the liver moist."
Although the judges aren't wowed by Chef Rob's overcooked liver, the flavors of his chili-honey wine gastrique, fried halloumi and onion-rice fritters impress the panel. "The combination of the rosemary and the honey with the fried cheese and the fava greens is great," Judge Alex tells Chef Rob, who ultimately survives to cook in the third and final round.
After tasting Chef Helen's dish, the judges agree that her entree is indeed riskier than her appetizer, but they question the flavor of the sauce. She's ultimately chopped just one course before dessert given that "some elements didn't really come together" and that her sauce is "too sweet," according to Judge Aarón.
With such mandatory basket ingredients as maraschino cherries, Greek yogurt, canned espresso and corn nuts, Chef Rob starts prepping an espresso trifle topped with a corn-nut crumble and yogurt mousse which he smokes with a smoking gun. "My goal is to stun the judges and give myself a creative edge, which has helped me through this whole competition," he explains.
The judges agree that both chefs brought their "A" games to the dessert round with top-notch dishes. "If this were a contest based solely on taste, it was a tie," Judge Alex explains. In the end, the panel decides that Chef Rob's creativity throughout the competition earned him the opportunity to compete in the Grand Finale battle.
Outcooking another competition's worth of Chopped competitors, Chef Rob Evans has scored the fourth and final spot in the Grand Finale battle, where he will compete for $50,000 and the title of Chopped Grand Champion. "I'm ready to take it," he says of the upcoming showdown. "I'm not going to let anyone get in my way."