Chopped Ultimate Champions: Meet the Competitors

Get to know the returning champions competing in the Chopped Ultimate Champions tournament.
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Photo By: David Lang ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo By: David Lang ©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.

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Champions Rounds

This all-new tournament is broken down into four preliminary rounds consisting of Pros, Amateur Champs, Heroes and Celebrities. The winner of each will go on to the Grand Finale, to compete for a chance to win the show's biggest prize yet, $50,000 and a brand-new car.

Round 1, Pros: Fatima Ali

Born and raised in an affluent family in Pakistan, Fatima, 24, was expected to become a doctor or lawyer. But she wanted to cook, so at age 19 she flew to New York and boarded a bus to Hyde Park, enrolling at the Culinary Institute of America. She is executive sous-chef at La Fonda Del Sol in New York City.
Previous Episodes: A Guts Reaction, Chopped Champions: Part 2

Round 1, Pros: Giorgio Rapicavoli

Growing up in an Italian-American family, Giorgio, 28, learned to cook from the fiery women in his life. He's worked professionally since age 14 and became an executive chef at 21. Giorgio now runs his own restaurant, Eating House, and is in the process of opening a second, Araca, both in Miami.
Previous Episode: Far Far Out!

Round 1, Pros: Lauren Kyles, 33

Born in Southern California, Lauren, 33, learned to be confident in whatever she did from her mom, who raised Lauren on her own. Instead of watching cartoons as a kid, Lauren watched cooking shows, and culinary school became the obvious choice. She is head chef at Public School 310 in Culver City.
Previous Episode: Beer Here!

Round 1, Pros: Tom McKenna

Tom, 26, grew up in the suburbs of L.A. as the sixth in a family of nine children. He started cooking professionally at age 14, helping his dad in the family's French and Italian restaurant at the time. He is the sous-chef at Jean-Georges Restaurant, which recently upheld its New York Times four-star rating.
Previous Episode: Gyro We Go Again

Round 2, Amateur Champs: Dinah Surh

Dinah, 55, calls herself a "hospital administrator by day, culinary diva by night." Born and raised in New York City by Korean parents, Dinah grew up watching cooking shows after school in their lampshade shop. She cooks Korean dishes with a twist, and still gets in the kitchen with her mom, who's in her eighties.
Previous Episode: Ambitious Amateurs

Round 2, Amateur Champs: Elda Bielanski

Elda, 70, has been taking care of people all her life, helping raise her siblings as a teenager, and working as an ICU nurse for 25 years. She began cooking at age 22 right after marriage, and has been putting on dinner parties ever since. Elda continues to learn more about cooking from her daughter, who is a chef.
Previous Episode: Grandma vs. Grandma

Round 2, Amateur Champs: Keith Young

Firefighter Keith, 49, attributes his love for cooking to his mom and his Dominican/Puerto Rican grandfather. Before joining the FDNY, he attended culinary school and worked in restaurants. As the main cook at his firehouse, he was inspired to write a cookbook. Keith is working on developing a cutting-board invention.
Previous Episode: Four Fathers

Round 2, Amateur Champs: Marisa Biaggi

As an associate creative director for a PR firm, Marisa, 36, is also very creative in the kitchen. Coming from a single-parent home, she spent much of her time with her Italian grandmother, learning to cook classic dishes of her heritage. Marisa also gets inspiration for her cooking from her travels.
Previous Episode: Amazing Amateurs

Round 3, Heroes: Diana Sabater

Raised by a single mom in a one-room apartment in the Philly ghetto, Diana, 41, found escape in cooking at an early age, learning classic Puerto Rican dishes from her mom. After being homeless and on welfare, she turned her life around, becoming a police officer. Diana recently left the force to work as a private chef.
Previous Episode: Momumental

Round 3, Heroes: Paul Rut

Coming from a large Czech family, Paul, 57, grew up in the kitchens of his grandparents. He has been a firefighter with the FDNY for almost 35 years. Paul is very familiar with competition, as he used to be a gymnast who placed internationally. Paul takes a healthy approach to cooking.
Previous Episode: Sound the Alarm!

Round 3, Heroes: Richard Fields

As the oldest of five children, Richard, 44, would cook meals for his family while his parents were at work, with his mom guiding him through recipes over the phone. He has been with the L.A. City Fire Department for more than 20 years, working as a captain and cooking, which has always been one of his passions.
Previous Episode: Firefighter Chefs

Round 3, Heroes: Robbie Myers

Robbie, 33, ended up a food-service operations manager in the U.S. Army because it was one of few open positions, but he dove into the job. He was twice deployed to Afghanistan, and after 11 years was discharged with PTSD. He hopes to bring attention to those who are transitioning back into society.
Previous Episode: Military Salute

Round 4, Celebrities: Brandi Chastain

Professional soccer defender and midfielder Brandi, 45, is the winner of two Women's World Cup championships and three Olympic medals. Growing up in San Jose, Calif., she was inspired to begin cooking by the Mexican food she ate at a friend's house, since her own mother wasn't the best cook.
Previous Episodes: Chopped Tournament of Stars: Sports Stars!, Chopped Tournament of Stars: Finale!

Round 4, Celebrities: Carnie Wilson

Carnie, 45, is well known as a member of Wilson Phillips, the Billboard Award-winning group she formed with her sister and childhood friend. Her love for cooking stems from watching her Jewish grandma cook, and seeing Julia Child and Emeril on TV. She describes her style as low-key and comforting.
Previous Episodes: Chopped Tournament of Stars: Rachael vs. Guy!, Chopped Tournament of Stars: Finale!

Round 4, Celebrities: Gillian Vigman

Gillian, 42, is most recognizable from the sketch-comedy series MADtv. She has starred in the TV series Sons & Daughters and Suburgatory. Growing up in New Jersey, Gillian learned to cook French classics from her mom, who as a former flight attendant passed on a love for international cuisine.
Previous Episodes: Chopped Tournament of Stars: Comedians!, Chopped Tournament of Stars: Finale!

Round 4, Celebrities: Laila Ali

Against her father's wishes, Laila, 34, secretly began training to become a boxer during high school. She went on to become a four-time undefeated world boxing champion. She started cooking at age 12 since her mom didn't cook, and now loves to prepare healthy dishes for her husband and kids.
Previous Episodes: Chopped All-Stars: Celebrities, Chopped All-Stars: Finale!

Get More Chopped Ultimate Champions

Visit the Chopped page for more on the tournament, including behind-the-scenes galleries and videos, and exclusive interviews with the winners of each round.

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