Chopped Grill Masters, Season 2: Round 1 in Review

See highlights from the first part of the Grill Masters tournament, and find out which competitor earned a spot in the finale.
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Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: David Lang ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

The Road to $50,000

Grillers Chris Hart, Randy Pauly, Danielle Dimovski and Staci Graves Jett have taken on the challenge of the mystery baskets in Round 1 of Grill Masters for a chance to earn a spot in the $50,000 finale. For their first round, they must cook with double-cut pork chops, a margarita, avocados and merguez sausage.

Open to Interpretation

"I need time to cook them," says Randy, referring to the double-cut pork chops," but the only way is if I open them up." Knowing that presentation is key in this competition, Randy tops the butterflied chops with margarita-sausage salsa for an unusual look that judge Scott Conant can't help but comment on.

Good Things Come in Small Packages?

"Danielle just took a flying leap," judge Chris Santos exclaims, seeing her jump onto the tailgate of one of the pantry trucks. She gets right to cutting the bone from the chops to make margarita-glazed tacos. But her excitement wanes when she sees everyone's plates: "I realize I've got the smallest dish here."

The Meat Whisperer

"I'm a grilling nerd," says Chris, who's made sure to practice with homemade mystery baskets before coming on the show. "I don't care if people think I'm insane for talking to my meat," he says as he waits for the temperature reading before removing the chops from the grill for his dish.

Nervous Indecisions

"I'm still debating whether I want to debone that pork or leave it whole," says Staci, but she decides to butterfly it, then stuff it with the merguez sausage, however, she leaves the cooking for the last moments. "The margarita I actually want to pour up and drink," she says, looking to calm her nerves.

Presentation vs. Technique

"This pork chop is actually giving birth to the avocado," Scott says of Randy's dish, which the judges agree is overportioned. "Unfortunately you put it on pretty late in the cooking process," judge Amy Mills tells Staci of her pork, which was partially undercooked. Staci's appeal to the judges isn't enough to keep her from getting chopped.

Overexcited and Overzealous  

"A griller getting a cowboy steak is like a golfer getting a brand-new driver," says Chris of the basket ingredient. But he's also got artichokes, cherry pie and rye whiskey to contend with in the entree round. "I'm maybe being overambitious," he says, deciding to make a rye hollandaise to tie together the steak and artichokes.

All Fired Up

"I'd like to let this cool off a little bit more," says Danielle, peeling sweet potatoes she's taken directly out from among the hot coals of her charcoal grill, "but you better suck it up, princess," she tells herself. On the side she serves cherry-rye sauce and grilled artichokes, but she worries her steak looks too rare.

A Cherry Jubilee

"I can change somebody on the love of steak," says Randy of the fact that he converted his vegetarian wife. He plates the steaks with grilled artichokes on the side and cherry-rye gravy on top. "I'm seeing cherry pie, cherry pie and more cherry pie," says fellow competitor Chris as he looks over at Randy's finished dish.

Sweet Shortcomings

"I want to believe you when you say you cooked this rare," judge Chris tells Danielle about her steak. He then calls Chris "a victim of his own ambition" for an unsuccessful hollandaise. Amy finds Randy's steak "cooked and seasoned really well," but the cherry topping is too sweet, and for that reason he's chopped.

Focused but Forgetful

With ham steaks, mangoes and cornbread in the dessert basket, Chris decides to make crispy ham, grilled mango puree and vanilla pudding. "I'm giving the pudding my undivided attention," he says, hoping it comes together, but in the meantime he forgets to use the last basket item, ricotta cheese.

Dessert Under Pressure

"I can make ham a dessert," says Danielle excitedly. "Watch me!" Slathering the ham steaks with maple syrup, brown sugar and spices, she grills them to create "pig candy." She also grills cornbread slices, but unfortunately they burn. "I'm known as the queen of desserts," she says. "I cannot screw this up."

Ruthless Rivals

"I think this is your strongest dish of the day," judge Chris tells Danielle, but Scott points out the burned bits. Aside from Chris' missing ingredient, the judges pick apart the dish's details, Scott calling it "a soggy sweet soup." The two competitors make the judges' decision even more difficult with their final words.

Round 1 Champion

Despite his mishap in the dessert round, Chris earns the first spot in the Grill Masters grand finale, for a chance to win the $50,000 cash prize. "I know it wasn't perfect today, but I am a grill master," Chris tells the judges. "I'm going to pull it together in the finale and kill it."

More Grill Masters

Browse photos of the competition, read interviews with the winners of each round and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the set.

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