As fans of Chopped, we enjoy both the traditional (if you can call them that!) episodes featuring different chefs from established restaurants as well as the episodes that feature teenagers, mothers, fathers, cops, and firefighters. We also love seeing familiar faces in the Chopped kitchen– remember seeing Laila Ali test her culinary skills? Recently, an episode featured “amateurs” competing for a second chance at redemption. We reached out to entertainment lawyer and Chopped Champion Jackie Khanich to learn what it was like to be in the kitchen for a second time.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
JK: My grandmother would sit me on the floor and teach me how to roll grape leaves before I could even walk. Both my parents were huge inspirations in the kitchen. My uncles owned Middle Eastern restaurants in Houston, New York, and Syria.
FP: What is the one item in the kitchen you can’t live without?
JK: My Kitchenaid Mixer. I love it. I love the attachments. I love it! And mine is of course pink!
FP: We (well, Kristina) couldn’t live without a Kitchenaid! Ours is cherry red.
Tell us about your experience on Chopped the second time around. What did you learn from your first experience that you tried to incorporate the second time around?
JK: Even though you may have not been able to tell, I was much more nervous the second time. You know what to expect. You know the intensity. That is frightening, knowing you will be under extreme pressure. The second time around I tried to incorporate timing techniques. I made it a point to start plating at 5 minutes to ensure I would get every ingredient on the plate. That was my goal.
FP: Leaving time to plate is key. We get so anxious when Ted Allen counts down!
Name three people you would like to cook in the same kitchen with and why.
JK: Alex Guarnaschelli; I think she is one of the best chefs around. I love how passionate Guarnaschelli is about food. I also love her hashtag #growll and her passion for fresh ingredients and yumminess.
Geoffrey Zakarian is my favorite chef. He is just magic in the kitchen. His knowledge and repertoire of cuisine is bar none. I love his flavor profiles and respect his Middle Eastern upbringing.
I have a huge crush on Curtis Stone. I love his Australian accent! He is also a great chef and super cute.
FP: We wouldn’t mind cooking in the same kitchen with those three either!
What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?
JK: I love going Middle Eastern. I love making a mezza of appetizers and stuffed grape leaves with lamb roast.
FP: We love stuffed grape leaves! Let us know know if you ever need help rolling them 🙂
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in West Hollywood or other places you’ve visited.
FP: I LOVE Craig’s on Melrose. Craig is an inspiration opening his restaurant after being the Matre D at Dan Tana’s. For my molecular fix I love Ink. Michael Voltagio’s dishes are so phenomenal and I am a huge fan! For my sushi fix I love Kura Sushi: order the butter butter roll and ninja burrito. For high end sushi, Sushi Park is bar none. Simply delicious. Son of a Gun is a great place to go for their famous chicken sandwich and shrimp toast. Providence I believe is the BEST restaurant in LA but hard on the pocket book with dinner for two could be over $700. Newport Seafood Company has the best spicy lobster and fresh king crab legs.
FP: Sounds like a delicious list for sure! Good to know if we ever make it to LA/Hollywood.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
JK: Cheese. I love cheese, from my head down to my knees. If there is cheese in anyone’s refrigerator it will be eaten by me. In college I always had a problem eating my roommates cheese. I would replace it of course but I am addicted. Some favorites include a french goat or brie, queso manchego, smoked gouda, and muenster.
FP: Half of FP (Kristina) has the exact same feeling about cheese!
You’re an entertainment lawyer. What are some of the similarities between being a chef and practicing law.
JK: I think both professions are intense and high stress jobs. In both practices you have to work well under pressure and be able to work on your feet, able to juggle multiple tasks and remained focused throughout. I have a passion for both and want to continue to explore both my passions.
FP: If you could jump on an airplane tomorrow, which country/city/region would you visit just for its food?
JK: Please check out my food blog www.wildonfood.com I have traveled around the world three times in miles over the last 3 months. My next trips include Mexico City, the Kentucky Derby, Aspen Food and Wine, and Cannes. If you would have asked me that question before going to Japan, I would have answered Japan because I am addicted to sushi. I just back and my sushi experiences will never be the same.
However hypothetically if I could go anywhere just for the food I would go to the Tuscan region of Italy during white truffle season. There is something truly magical about Florence. I love the city. It is romantic, beautiful, and the food is incomparable. The ingredients are so fresh and the fresh pasta is to die for.
FP: Oh yes, we need to visit Florence for sure. Kristina visited after college and would love to return. We’re wild about your blog and will continue to follow your culinary adventures!