Since we live and work in NY, we can’t help but cheer for Chopped contestants who are either from the area or work in the city or Westchester County… call it a NY bias. In a recent episode, we rooted for Emily Chapman, Sous Chef at David Santos’ Louro. After her victory, we caught up with the Chopped Champion to learn more about her.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
EC: I began my start in cooking at a young age. My mom was a stay at home mom during my younger years, and our family was a sit down for dinner type of family. Every night at 6pm we would sit down for dinner. My mother would always try to include me and my older sister in the cooking process- especially if we were interested. I independently starting venturing into cooking around the age of 15/16, when I really started watching the Food Network again. (When I was younger I always watched the original Iron Chef, and of course Emeril) I started messing around with some recipes, or just some ideas I would get from watching some shows. Usually it was just for myself, but sometimes I would cook for the family. When I turned 17, I would host dinner parties with my friends, making chicken or steak dinners, which I continued to do in college as well. I’ve become known by a lot of my friends for my pasta sauce. Ironically enough one of the greatest kickstarts to my interest in the food industry was my first job at ShopRite, where I worked as a cashier at the snack bar. I had a lot of fun there.
FP: Sounds like you were meant to be in the kitchen!
Tell us about your experience on Chopped.
EC: My experience on Chopped was a lot of fun. At first I was very curious to see how everything would play out, what the process was, what the people were like etc. I was happy to see that the show was very true to how its depicted on TV. I always wondered how “real” some reality TV shows were, and I was happy to discover that Chopped is exact real time. Clock starts now means, the clock is starting now, and the first view of the basket is really the first view of the basket. I think the funniest thing for me being on that show was how quickly the reality (no pun intended) hits you in the first round. When you finally have a chance to process everything that is going on within the first 5 seconds, its like you have to reboot your brain to start functioning again. It’s one thing to have to cook on the fly like that, with pre-chosen ingredients, but to do so with a bunch of guys with cameras following you around and getting in your way, it causes a completely new element.
FP: We get anxious when we hear Ted Allen count down so we can only imagine the intense pressure for you and the other contestants in the Chopped kitchen!
What was the hardest ingredient work with?
EC: I think the hardest ingredient that I was faced with was in fact the ham steak (as everyone who watched the show heard). I hate ham steak, with a passion. I guess I let myself down by not really focusing on it during the round, partially because I just wanted it to disappear. I will say that one of the most difficult things on the show was being open and honest to millions of people that I don’t know. Knowing that a camera is filming you answering questions honestly definitely makes you feel exposed.
FP: Oh yes, the ham steak. Glad you persevered!
Name three individuals you would like to cook in the same kitchen with and why.
EC: One of the three individuals I would want to cook in the same kitchen with has been and always will be my boss David Santos. I have never seen someone be so creative and happy while working aside from him (well, maybe me but I’m not that talented yet). I enjoy feeding off of his passion, and it allows me to channel my inner thoughts and ideas to the plate. For that, I am forever grateful.
Another person I loved cooking with was my former Chef Floyd Cardoz. Cardoz opened up a completely new light to cooking for me, teaching me the art and beauty of working with spices and flavors that literally will make your head spin. The flavor profiles he showed me at the late Tabla lay the foundation of how I view dishes today. Not to mention he has the greatest sense of humor.
For the third individual, my choice may surprise a few people who know me. I wish I could’ve had the chance to work with Charlie Trotter. When I first entered culinary school, many of his books were the first that I bought, I even did a report on him in my intro to culinary class. I just found his food so appealing, especially his simplistic yet bold approaches to vegetables.
FP: A great trio of chefs indeed!
What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home?
EC: One of my favorite meals to cook is actually one of the dishes I cooked on the show. Pho has become a huge favorite of mine. I love to cook soups and broths, but when I became exposed to the unique flavor profiles of pho in my international cuisine class, I became hooked. I love to make it, and how it challenges you every time to make sure that you time the evolution of the broth appropriately. I also love to make other Indo/Asian style dishes such as pad thai, fried rices, and braises. I do make a pretty good eggroll, my dad is still mad I haven’t made them for him at home yet.
FP: We’d love to try your pho day!
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in NYC or other cities you’ve visited.
EC: Top places for me to eat in NYC? Easy. But some may surprise you.
Hot Kitchen on 2nd Ave. The best Szechuan lunch.
Mirch Masala on Macdougal. David and I both think this one of the best Indian places in the city. The paratha rolls make me so happy. I really want to go work there for a day or two.
Uncle Boons on Spring Street. I tip my hat to these guys. They are a Thai food making power house! The green mango avocado salad makes me warm and fuzzy inside.
Louro. Yes, it may seemed bias because I’m the sous chef here, but I find myself here at “home” eating dinner more often than not. Something about the food just isn’t like anything else I can go find in NYC.
FP: Sounds like a delicious list! We’d love to stop by Louro one day.
We ask everyone this question. What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
EC: Guilty pleasures. I eat surprisingly healthy, aside from one thing. Fruit snacks. or gummies, or whatever you guys would like to call them. If they are gummy, and fruit flavored, and especially sour, I will eat them. All of them. Without thinking twice about it. Only one condition, not the Kelloggs brand. (sorry guys, just not doing it for me).
FP: Oh yes, we hear you about fruit snacks… so GOOD!
What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies? What’s a day off like for you?
EC: My non-food related hobbies include a lot of sleeping. Otherwise I love going to museums, especially the Met and the Museum of Natural History. I enjoy reading, and I especially love a good karaoke night.
FP: That’s a well-rounded list!
Thank you, Emily for your time. We wish you continued success and happy eating!