The first season of Chopped was also the first one I had ever watched. These episodes were decent, although the mystery ingredients pale in comparison to the ones that are out there in later episodes.
Favorite Episode: Mac & Cheese, Cola, Bacon. This was quite an interesting episode, seeing the diversity of the four chefs. The chefs who got chopped had some very good ideas, but they made some dangerous mistakes (Putting way too much sauce on, undercooking). It was quite amusing watching Chef Will get angry because he was allergic to two of the mystery ingredients. Kind of makes you wonder if that was karma from him not including the cheese sauce. Watching this episode was exhilarating and kept me on my guard.
Least Favorite Episode: Coconut, Calamari, Donuts. Ugh. I really didn't enjoy this episode. The person who won should have never made it to the dessert. This episode shall forever be remembered as the one with Gwen LePape. First off, I don't know why someone would name their son Gwen. Second, the guy ended up serving four shining empty plates. Ouch. The winner, Chef Mina, took a pathetic shortcut in the entrée, her appetizer was a mess, and her dessert looked like a urine doused toilet seat. The runner up, 24 year old David, made a few mistakes in the first round by not highlighting the nori enough and his presentation, but he definitely stepped it up in the second round. In the final round, he gave one of the only two eggs left to Mina (who later calls him a punk), which causes him trouble with making his fritters. Still, his meal was much better in my opinion, and he was robbed.
Weirdest Ingredient: Probably the string cheese. One of the chefs said, and I quote "I was like, what, the h*ll am I supposed to do with string cheese?
Flash of Brilliance Moments:
- Octopus, Duck, Animal Crackers: In the appetizer round, Chef Perry Pollaci whipped out a bowl of smoked paprika seasoned baby octopus with diced bok choy stems in a Bok Choy broth. Man, that broth looked amazing.
- Avocado, Tahini, Bran Flakes: Andre Marrero integrates grape jelly with ground beef by turning it into an onion gastrique for his sliders.
- Yucca, Watermelon, Tortillas: Chef Ed Witt pulled off quite an interesting entrée, preparing an Ancho and raisin braised beef shoulder with a yucca purée, fried pickles, and parsley salad. He used a lot of very impressive ideas and techniques forward in that dish.
- Mac & Cheese, Cola, Bacon: For dessert, James Briscione made use of his bacon by canding it. If anyone's seen Epic Meal Time, this was one of their genius ideas. Candied bacon.
- String Cheese, Jicama, Gingersnaps: Chef Darius Peacock makes use by deboning his chicken wings, and then stuffing the wings with "the stupid cheese". He also pulls off cheese and fish, making a Brie savory bread pudding.
How Did They Get Past the Screening Process? Moments:
- Avocado, Tahini, Bran Flakes: Chris Burke's dessert is positively a disaster, with a Napoleon of avocado and cantaloupe which doesn't read dessert, and grilled cantaloupe "ravioli" that taste like gasoline.
- Banana, Collard Greens, Grits: Luis Gonzalez makes the humiliating mistake of mixing up sugar and salt, which ruined his Grit and black plum meltdown cake.
- Yucca, Watermelon, Tortillas: Ed Witt serves a piece of beef shoulder that he dropped on the floor while tenderizing. However, the flavor of his dish allows him to cook dessert.
- Canned Peaches, Rice Cakes, Beets: Two contestants leave a rice cake whole on their entrée plates.
- Coconut, Calamari, Donuts: Chef Gwen LePape fails to get a single thing plated in the appetizer round.
- String Cheese, Jicama, Gingersnaps: Oh dear. Where to begin? In the appetizer, Jonathan Jernigan and King Phojongakong make two dishes that the judges actually deem offensive. Jonathan angers judge Scott Conant by taking two of the mystery ingredients and literally just putting them on the plate as garnish, although it made the dish look awful. King is unable to season his Asian style buffalo wings, or make the sweet and spicy mayo dipping sauce for his celery and string cheese. He also forgets to get the string cheese for Scott, which does nothing to improve his mood. Fortunately for King, the good idea he had, and his use of bacon in the soba, saved him in the first round, and Jonathan was the first chopped for his dish failing on all three levels. Ouch.
- Chocolate, Mussels and Figs: Michael Selicious was incredibly arrogant from the beginning. He boasted about how he was going to win and how easy it would be to get through the appetizer round. However, he seemed to have forgotten that it was an appetizer. He plated pan-fried beef medallions with vegetable salad and chocolate glazed Asian pears on far too small of plates. After cooking was done, he looked at the other dishes and proclaimed that it didn't compare to what he made. He was chopped for his disjointed plate which reminded the judges of a buffet line.