“Thoughts on my Chopped experiences… First, thanks to everyone for all of their kind words. When I applied to Chopped, I had not seen the show and really had only a rough idea of how it worked. My family strongly suggested that I NOT apply, but I decided to roll the dice and see if they cast me. After being the boss for years, and not being in the kitchen as much, I considered the opportunity a personal challenge to delve back into my pastry chef past.
The producers, staff and judges treated me and the rest of the competitors with respect and kindness. Filming was an exhausting (both mentally and physically) experience, as each episode consumed 12 + hours, with lots of waiting around, interspersed with the roller coaster free-fall that is the actual competition.
People have asked, did we have advance knowledge of the topic or basket ingredients or judges. The answer to all is NO. Up until arriving for the first episode, all I knew was that I was in a dessert competition, and that’s it. Because we were not allowed to bring anything (other than a maximum of 6 knives), I spent several weeks testing, timing and memorizing quick recipes for everything from sauces to sorbets, from confections to cakes. Regarding the baskets, the competitors have no clue as to the contents. We open them once, remarking on everything (“oh, it’s a jar of hot sauce” or “what the &*@%, an armadillo?”) as we remove the items. Then, we turn around as the staff repacks the basket (just a few minutes) then we open the baskets again and the timer starts!
During the rounds, each competitor is completely focused on just getting their stuff figured out and finished. I never had any time or inclination to pay attention to what anyone else was making. Whether that was good or bad, I can’t say. But occasionally I would hear the judges chatting, and it was hard to block that out. They would talk about the ingredients or what they would do or what we were doing… And they would even walk around and briefly chat with us as we were desperately trying to get our dishes made – I just tried not to run into or knock over anyone!
Winning the Cake episode was an overwhelming honor. And I was incredibly proud to make it to the last round of the FINALE. Not winning the FINALE was a bummer, but I did the best that I could and understand that Daniela’s flaming churro dessert trumped my berry coconut meringue in terms of WOW factor. No hard feelings… although it was a treat to have Martha and Alex praise my flavors!
In preparing for and filming Chopped, I dug back into my pastry training and experience, feeling truly blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to play in the kitchen – on Food Network for countless viewers. Again… Thank you for your support, personally and professionally!!”
-Chef Rachel Klemek