Southern Twist

After watching numerous Chopped episodes over the last few years, we’ve learned two things are for certain on the show: 1) There is always at least one “weird” item in the basket and 2) Chefs from NYC, New Orleans, and Atlanta are well represented on the show. We recently caught up with North Carolina native Chef Courtney Renn (@ChefCourtney13), one of the many talented chefs in Atlanta that have competed on the show.

Chef Courtney Renn
Chef Courtney Renn

FP: How did you get your start with cooking? When did you decide you wanted to be a chef? What do you enjoy most about cooking?

CR: I grew up with a family that loves to cook. It’s in my blood and has always come very naturally to me. I moved to Atlanta in 1999 to attend culinary school at The Art Institute. I love building and developing layers of flavor. I also love the end result of cooking just as much. Bringing people together with food is a pretty cool job.

FP: The city of Atlanta is lucky to have you!

Name some chefs that have inspired you.

CR: Anne Quatrano, Grant Achatz, Daniel Boulud and Alex Guarnaschelli.

FP: Talented and inspiring chefs for sure!

Tell us about your experience on Chopped from casting to filming. What was it like to compete with the other chefs? What will you remember most about the experience?

CR: I got a call from The Food Network in September 2011 asking if I would like to compete on Chopped. After accepting, I had an on camera interview with the casting department in November 2011. The next step was to film the introduction of the show. They came to my home in Atlanta in January 2012. That day of filming lasted about 5 hours. So, it’s really interesting when you watch it and see how much editing goes into the show. There’s only about 45 seconds of those 5 hours of filming that actually make it on the show. I filmed the actual competition in New York in April 2012.

I work very well in high-pressure situations but Chopped took that to an entirely different level. The only way I can describe it is an out of body experience. We had about two minutes to walk through the kitchen and pantry and then it was time to start. We see the ingredients just as it happens on TV. I didn’t know when the show would air until October of last year. You can’t discuss the show at all until you are given an air date. It was very difficult to keep that secret! It was a great experience. I love challenging myself and I definitely accomplished that. I met a great group of chefs and was really happy to do the show with them.

FP: Sounds like it was a great experience for you!

When you are home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself or for guests?

CR: I always cook something I’ve never made before when I cook for people at home. I usually don’t plan a meal at home ahead of time. The inspiration comes when the ingredients are in front of me at the store.

FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

CR: Anything with bacon…

FP: We’re with you on bacon…such a foodie pleasure!

In three words, how would your friends and family describe you?

CR: Loyal, funny and kind

FP: If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing? Any non-cooking hobbies?

CW: I would have to do something creative. The advertising world would be my next choice.

FP: Thank you for your time and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

You can learn more about Chef Courtney at

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