Chopped Ultimate Champions: Pros — Part 1 in Review

Browse highlights from the pros round of 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: 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: David Lang ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

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

Starting the Tournament with the Pros

Returning Chopped champions and professional chefs Lauren Kyles, Giorgio Rapicavoli, Tom McKenna and Fatima Ali are battling for a spot in the Ultimate Champions finale, where they'll have a chance to win $50,000 in prize money and a brand-new car.

Appetizer Basket

The dishes must include eel, pepihuates, shaved coconut and sea beans. The judges agree that the hardest ingredient in the basket is the eel: "The challenge is going to be butchering it, because the skin is difficult to take off," says Scott.

Mismatched Cooking Techniques

"If I were to saute the eel I'm afraid the skin is going to get too chewy," says Fatima, who instead chooses to tempura the eel. But she leaves the frying to the last second and, because she's so pressed for time, ends up frying the sea beans too, which only concentrates their saltiness.

Taking a Comforting Route

"I want to take my pepihuates and transform it into a nice barbecue-y glaze," says Lauren, who adds chiles and molasses to the Mexican drink. She decides to leave the eel skin intact, and combines the sea beans with arugula for a salad. However, she burns her first batch of toasted coconut.

Upping His Game with Finesse

"Competing in this tournament is just another way of pushing myself to the next level," says Tom. He plates his seared eel with a sea bean and coconut salad and a doctored-up pepihuates sauce. In the final minutes he supremes oranges, which he thinks will be "the perfect burst of sweetness."

Excusing His Misstep

"My sea beans are not touching heat," decides Giorgio, using their "natural salinity to finish my dish." His dish includes barbecued eel with heirloom tomatoes and a pepihuates curry. However, he forgets to use the shaved coconut. He says, "Technically, coconut is in the dish," because he used coconut milk.

By the Skin of an Eel

Although Giorgio forgot an ingredient, the judges consider his dish "hands down the best," says Scott. And he was the only chef to skin the eel, whereas everyone else's eel turned out chewy or soggy because they left the skin on. In the end Fatima's salty sea beans decided her fate.

Entree Basket

The dishes must include dressed squab, stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese and cherry cola. The judges are excited to see squab in the basket: "Squab is a beautiful bird," says Marc. Scott adds, "But [it] cannot be overcooked." That will be the defining factor in judging the round.

No More Mistakes

Marc is hoping for a repeat performance from Giorgio: "I gotta tell you that his first dish was stupendous," he says. Chris, however, points out the major caveat: "He's got to come out just as strong in this round as he did in the first round, but with all the ingredients this time."

All the Way to China

"I purposely left the coconut out to give these guys a fair advantage," jokes Giorgio. In all seriousness, he says, "I've got a lot of catching up to do." He reduces the cherry cola for lacquering his Peking squab and turns the stuffed grape leaves into fried rice. Scott finds the use of sesame oil overpowering.

Making the Best Out of It

"Stuffed grape leaves? They are salty, briny. I hate them," says Tom. Despite his issue with the ingredient, he manages to transform them into a risotto to serve alongside his roasted squab. He dots the rice with cubes of feta, but the judges find the finishing touch doesn't work.

Getting Down to Earth

"Looking at the stuffed grape leaves," says Lauren, "I think I want to make a dirty rice," and she decides to incorporate mushrooms for earthiness, inspired by the squab. She grills the birds but takes them off early, which ends up being a bad decision because they turn out undercooked. She's chopped because of it.

Dessert Basket

The dishes must include grasshopper pie, Granny Smith apples, puffed rice and smoked sea salt. At this point in the battle the judges think it could go any which way. "This is very exciting," says Chris, "because I have no idea who's going to win today."

Thinking Outside of the Pie

"I instantly knew, as soon as I saw pie, I was gonna puree it and turn it into ice cream," says Giorgio. Once he has it blended and into the ice cream machine, he starts on the other components of his dessert, which will include salted caramelized apples and a puffed-rice mousse.

Big Expectations, Disappointing Results

Tom decides to puree the apples and use the food processor to pulverize the puffed rice for a streusel. He also purees the pie in the food processor, but it doesn't work: "I was expecting it to be this beautiful, chocolatey brown cream," he says, "but instead it was this greasy-looking brown puree."

Differentiating the Desserts

"Giorgio is definitely happy with this dessert," says Tom, "and I am clearly not." And his feelings are obvious to the judges. Even though Giorgio had slight issues with the ice cream, Tom's mistakes added up. "Giorgio took your wonderful and trumped it with exceptional," Scott tells Tom after he is chopped.

The Winning Pro

Giorgio earns the pro spot in the grand finale, where he'll compete against the winners of the next three rounds for a chance to win $50,000 and a brand-new car. "This next competition is going to be even tougher," says Giorgio. "Now I think all eyes are on me, but I'm definitely up for the challenge."

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