Chopped Ultimate Champions: Grand Finale in Review

Browse highlights from the finale of the Chopped Ultimate Champions tournament.
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Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Todd Plitt ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: David Lang ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

The Pro vs. the Joes

In the Chopped Ultimate Champions finale, professional chef Giorgio Rapicavoli will face off against: Laila Ali, representing the celebrities; Keith Young, representing the amateur cooks; and Diana Sabater, representing the hero cooks. The winner walks away with the largest prize yet, $50,000 and a new car.

Appetizer Basket

The dishes must include duck confit, ramps, risotto and orange-cream ice pops. Alex is paying attention to how the competitors are using the ramps. "A lot like a scallion with notes of garlic," is how she describes the flavor, but some cooking methods work better than others for them, namely grilling, Geoffrey notes.

Planning to Remain Undefeated

"I know what my opponent's talents are," says Laila, referring to Giorgio, "but I'm going to find a way to beat him." As an undefeated boxing champion, she knows competition. Despite not being familiar with duck confit, she delves right into the challenge and comes up with duck-and-ramp-filled wontons.

Pushing Her Boundaries

Until now Diana has leaned on her Latin roots when choosing a direction for her dishes, but she decides to go an Asian route, spicing the duck with turmeric and five-spice powder, and making risotto cakes along with a grilled ramp sauce. "I'm ready to take risks, scary risks for what I'm passionate about," she says.

Putting on the Pressure to Succeed

"All these eyes are on me," says Giorgio, feeling the pressure of being the pro. He blanches the ramps and purees them for a sauce to accompany his take on duck a l'orange. "Break my heart, crush me," says Alex when she's sees what he's doing. He says that "it will cut through the sweet-glazed duck."

Learning from His Mistakes

"[Laila]'s definitely going to give me a run for my money," says Keith. "There's no fighting her over a grill plate." He decides to make a barbecue sauce out of the ice pops, adding ketchup, to go over the duck. He concentrates on plating better than his last appetizer round, which he admits was "atrocious."

The First Elimination

Alex finds Diana's ramp-herb sauce "very seductive" in a professional way. Geoffrey is disappointed with Laila's wontons, which opened up during frying. He thinks Giorgio's blanching method for the ramps stripped their flavor. But it's Keith's "assertive" use of ketchup that puts his dish on the chopping block.

Entree Basket

The dishes must include pig's head, ajvar, Chinese broccoli and vegetable steamed buns. Although the pig's head is the scariest ingredient in this basket, many find another ingredient puzzling, the ajvar. Scott explains it's simply "a puree of red pepper, tomato and eggplant."

Concentrating on the Goal Ahead

"I've never seen a pig's head, never eaten a pig's head," says Laila, alarmed at seeing the basket ingredient. "But I've got to get past this," she adds, reminding herself she's on Chopped. Inspired by the ajvar, she decides to create a sweet-and-spicy pork, pairing it with pancakes she makes out of the steamed buns.

Living Up to His Name

"I'm probably the only person in the competition right now who's excited to see this pig head," Giorgio says. He makes good use of the cheek, jowl and tongue for his pasta amatriciana, which combines all the basket ingredients. "I'm really excited about getting back to my Italian roots," he says.

Self-Assured of Victory

"I think Giorgio should be a little bit scared," Diana says, sure she can outshine him. Upon tasting the ajvar, she decides on a Caribbean direction, cooking the head meat in a stew and creating a broccoli-and-rice dish. "I'm trying to be as creative as I can be," she says, using ring molds for her presentation.

Weighing the Transformations

Although the judges find fault with Giorgio's "very undercooked" pasta, which Geoffrey finds shocking, and Diana's neglect of the pig in her nevertheless flavorful stew, it is Laila's "overwhelming and dense" pancakes, which Geoffrey jokingly calls "flying saucers," that get her chopped.

Dessert Basket

The dishes must include corn muffin tops, whiskey, macadamia nuts and chocolate-covered gummy bears.

Pro vs. Joe Smack Talk

Giorgio and Diana move on to the dessert round, and each is not leaving without a fight. "[Giorgio]'s just as creative as I am, but I'm going to crush him," says Diana. Giorgio begs to differ: "Diana's a little ball of fury, but at the end of the day there's no way an amateur's going to be able to take me down."

Remastering a Classic Dessert

Deciding on "a very loose take on apple pie a la mode," Giorgio wants to show off his molecular side, considering dessert one of his "strong suits." After blending the corn muffin tops with milk and xanthan gum, he transfers the mixture to a whipped cream canister and uses the anti-griddle to freeze it.

Nerve-Wracking Finish

"The corn muffin tops and the whiskey are saying, 'Go South,'" says Diana, deciding to make individual chocolate tarts with the basket ingredients. "I'm nervous," says Alex, watching Diana unmold the tarts. "I can't even look." Diana uses a spoon to remove them, but each one falls apart upon plating.

Edging Out the Competition

"Coming into the dessert round I thought I had an edge, but now, looking at Giorgio's dessert, I don't," says Diana, expecting the worst. Although the judges praise Giorgio for his edgy presentation, they decide his dessert does not outweigh the mistakes in his two previous dishes, and he's chopped.

The Champion

Diana earns the title of Chopped Ultimate Champion along with $50,000 in cash and a brand-new car. "This is going to help me move from being an amateur chef to a professional chef," she says. "This is a huge break for me." Alex tells her: "You really brought the flavors. You rode into town on pure instinct."

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