Of all the cooking competition shows to arrive in the last few years, few are as popular as the Food Network’s Chopped. Four competitors have the chance to cook three courses, with a panel of judges eliminating one contestant after each course. The winner gets $10,000 and a whole lot of glory. It will come as no surprise that Chopped champs are often just as impressive off-screen as they are on it.
These winners are just a few of the show’s stars who are killing it now. Pictured is Tanya Cauthen.
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With ingredients including frog legs, Malta, and scotch, Mario Tolentino had his work cut out for him on his Chopped episode. But his serious skill in the kitchen was evident throughout all three courses, and he emerged victorious, proving that private chefs still have serious chops. Since winning his episode, Tolentino moved across the country to San Francisco, where he’s now the executive chef at Curio. Tolentino’s blend of California farm-to-table freshness and Southern low-country cuisine has made the spot a Mission favorite.
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When Louisiana’s Gavin Jobe found out he was going to be cooking for Alton Brown on his episode of Chopped, he was excited. As a fan of Brown’s show Good Eats, Jobe knew that technique would be vital to success. He was right: the episode revolved around the technique of smoking, applied in a variety of ways. After his win, Jobe returned to his successful modern Italian restaurant Meribo in Covington, LA. He recently opened a second outpost in New Orleans at Pythian Market Food Hall, an urban food collective that highlights local food, craftsmen, and culture.
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Anyone who thinks that meat is a man’s world has never met Belmont Butchery’s Tanya Cauthen. Cauthen honed her butchery skills at restaurants in Switzerland and Australia before returning to the U.S. to open Richmond’s first local butcher shop. She then took her skills to Chopped for their indoor grilling challenge, where she competed with no access to an oven, fryer, or microwave. Despite the obstacles, Tanya’s crepes ultimately pushed her to a win. In addition to running the store full time, Cauthen gives talks around Richmond, educating kids and adults on farming and healthy eating. This fall, she’s co-hosting Grrls Meat Camp, a butcher boot camp specifically for women.
“By taking men out of the picture, we teach butcher skills based on anatomy and not brute strength. Women of all ages and sizes, need to learn alternate approaches to butchery to maintain safe work practices. Women also deal with different life and work balance issues than men and Grrls Meat Camp creates a bond that extends beyond the camp itself,” she says.
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You know what they say about ladies and chocolate...they love using it to display their amazing culinary skills and win tons of cash. Or at least, that’s what Brooke Siem did when she won the “Chocolate Obsession” episode of Chopped. If there’s a job in the restaurant industry, Siem has probably held it at some point: she’s made wine on Long Island, started her own bakery, and put out a cookbook to boot. Now, Siem has shifted her focus to helping people with mental health issues find the right course of treatment, something that she says she wishes she’d had in her own life. She’s also working on a project where she cooks with grandmothers around the world, and has spent time learning from 13 awesome women across nine countries on four continents.
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Emily B. Hall
Of course Brian Riggenbach was pumped about winning his episode of Chopped, but what was even more exciting was that the show provided him with the opportunity to reconnect with longtime friend and Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan. From there, a partnership was born, and Riggenbach and husband Mikey Corona relocated to Nashville to open the Mockingbird, part of Chauhan’s Morph Hospitality Group. The Mockingbird is a global diner, with fresh and exciting takes on classic comfort food from around the world. Riggenbach and Corona are also strongly committed to the local LGBTQ community, using their resources to work with charities that focus on AIDS awareness and LGBTQ youth.
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Before he made the move to LA, the handlebar-mustachioed Joe Sasto was a San Franciscan through and through, so much so that he was chosen for the SF-themed episode of Chopped. He mastered Bay Area-themed baskets that included ingredients like sourdough bread bowls and Mission-style burritos to defeat three other local chefs. Now he’s trying things out a little further south; he’s currently the executive chef at Cal Mare in Los Angeles, where he prepares perfect pasta, as well as a range of other Italian specialties. And if all that wasn’t enough, he was also recently a competitor on Top Chef. It’s amazing he finds the time to keep that mustache in such great condition.
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What do you make with leftover German chocolate cake, fries, chili, and ribs? Well if you’re Jason Stude, you make a dish that helps clinch the title of Chopped champion. This Austin chef returned victorious to his chef de cuisine position at Second Bar + Kitchen, serving up new American dishes like Buffalo fried pickles and hamachi crudo with mezcal gastrique. Now he’s the executive chef at sister restaurant Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, which focuses on cooking techniques involving fire. He was also recently promoted to regional executive chef of La Corsha Hospitality, where he’s in charge of the culinary programs at Second Bar + Kitchen’s downtown location, as well as a concept to be opened later this year. All of that while keeping his executive chef title! We’re exhausted just thinking about it.
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When Celeste Rogers appeared on Chopped, she expected to be eliminated in the first round. That’s ridiculous. Before she was a Chopped champion, she had already gone to culinary school, done recipe development, worked for a food magazine and TV show, written a cookbook, co-founded a meal delivery service, and, of course, worked in a variety of different kitchens. Of course she was ready to take on the healthy cooking-themed episode of the competition. Rogers says that her years of holding such varied jobs in the food world had prepared her for any curveball ingredients, though the vegan bacon was still, in her words, “disgusting.” Now she’s moving away from being behind the scenes to doing things with her own name on them, including pitching a TV show to some major food and travel networks, and working on a project for Art Basel. It seems likely that you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of Celeste Rogers soon.