Appearing on the show Chopped is a dream in itself for both professional and at-home chefs. Can you imagine competing and winning Chopped multiple times (3 times to be exact!)? Recent Grand Champion Diana Sabater did just that, so of course, we had to learn more about her!
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
DS: I began cooking at the age of 10. My favorite show to watch as a kid was Julia Child‘s cooking show. After the show I would go in the kitchen and try to make whatever she made on her show. I soon discovered my love of cooking.
My biggest influence was my grandmother. I remember my grandmother playing her bolero music while cooking. She would take her time flavoring the food. Her homemade sofrito was the base of her seasoning. Today it is the foundation of my cooking as well. It has taken me nearly 10 years to perfect this seasoning sauce but is finally have it.
FP: Tell us about your experiences on Chopped.
DS: My experience on Chopped was life changing. It was one of the hardest challenge I faced but I feel like I have prepared for this all my life. Being on a fixed income, I had to be creative with food. If canned corn beef was the only ingredient I could afford that week, I would find a way to make it seven different ways. Because I could not afford to do much of anything else, the kitchen was my canvas and the masterpiece was the finished product on the plate.
FP: What was the hardest ingredient work with on the show?
DS: The hardest ingredient I had to work with was the pig’s head. I am used to getting my meat already butchered and I have never worked with a pig’s head before. But from watching Food Network, I remembered that the cheeks held a lot of flavor.
FP: Oh yes, we definitely remember the pig’s head for sure!
What were the biggest differences from one appearance to the other?
DS: The biggest difference for me was that there seemed to be more camaraderie in this tournament. In the Heroes episode, it felt like we were all just there doing what we love to do. It didn’t matter who won. Before we went out to find out who was getting chopped after the dessert round, I told Robbie, my competitor, it didn’t matter who won as long as one of us brought it home for the heroes in the finale.
The finale was a bit intimidating. Going up against a professional who owns two restaurants in one of the hottest locations in the nation is very intimidating. I was nervous the whole time. After each round looking over at Giorgio’s plate made me realize how talented and creative and passionate this person is. He just doesn’t cook for a living or for fun, he lives and breathes his art. Because of his skill level he pushed me to go where I did not think I could. Because of that I am so grateful to have crossed paths with him in this manner. Now I can show someone like Giorgio that I have the ability and skills to move from Private Chef to Executive Chef.
FP: We certainly enjoyed watching you take it to the next level!
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in your area or other cities you’ve visited.
DS: My favorite places to eat are the little hole-in-the-wall places. The food taste more home cooked. In my hometown, Philadelphia, my favorite places are on N3rd St in Northern Liberties and Picahna Grill (Brazilian food).
FP: We’ve been meaning to get back to Philly and will have to check out N3rd Street next time!
What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for your family?
DS: Fortunately for me, my kids are not picky eaters so they will eat anything as long as its spicy. They usually ask me to make Puerto Rican food.
FP: We agree with your kids– the spicier the better!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
DS: I love salted caramel chocolate.
FP: Can’t go wrong with that! Thank you, Diana, for your time. We can’t wait to see where your career takes you!
Learn more about Chef Diana on her blog!