Cheryl was one of the competitors in Chopped’s first-ever cafeteria-chef competition. Ted was moved by her stories of children at her school in New Haven, Conn., whose only food is what’s provided at school. Cheryl even started a program to give children backpacks of food to take home. Ted called it “the closest I've ever come to crying on television.”
An A-Plus Performance
After beating out her fellow lunch ladies in friendly competition, Cheryl embraced her daughter, Rosie.
Some of the chefs who stick out most in Ted’s mind are small-business owners who beat out chefs from upscale restaurants. One of them is Einat, a first-season competitor. “Einat had a falafel business, and she went up against an executive chef from a really fancy restaurant, and she kicked his butt,” Ted said. “She's excellent and great and amazing … I won't forget her.”
After wowing the judges with her dessert of Ricotta and Walnut Quick Grits Fritters, Einat left the kitchen a Chopped champion.
After the Vietnam War, Hiep’s mother put her and her sister on a raft and put them out to sea in the hope that they would find a better life. Hiep went on to star in one of Oliver Stone’s movies before she opened her own Vietnamese restaurant. Ted found her story incredibly humbling. “I'm a guy who grew up in suburban Indianapolis, I'm lucky enough to have this fun job, and we're meeting someone who's overcome such incredible life experiences,” he said.
An Unlikely Elimination
After all that she had been through, Hiep failed to make a winning dish that combined the basket ingredients and her signature Vietnamese flavors in the Chopped kitchen, and was sent home after the entree round.
Ted also remembered Nong, one of the competitors in Chopped’s food truck episode. Her food cart, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, specializes in just one dish: chicken and rice. “Nong came to the United States with 75 bucks in her pocket and two suitcases. Now she owns two food carts in Portland and a brick-and-mortar restaurant,” said Ted. “She's just such a go-getter.”
Living the American Dream
Nong impressed the judges with her Thai-influenced dessert, and was able to win the competition and make her mom proud.
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