Foreigner’s Kelly Hansen Triumphs on the Food Network’s ‘Chopped’
Kelly Hansen proved himself a hero of the kitchen as well as the jukebox, when he narrowly beat out Dweezil Zappa to win an episode of the Food Network's Chopped that featured four rock stars.
“You cooked with more finesse, savvy and technique than we see from most professionals,” judge Aarón Sánchez told the Foreigner frontman at the end of the intense but thoroughly entertaining (and rock & roll pun-filled) hour-long show, which also included competitors Lita Ford and Twisted Sister’s Eddie Ojeda.
The latter was eliminated after the first round, which found all four rockers using chicken drumsticks, corn tortillas, champagne and jam to create chicken taco dishes as an appetizer. “Instead of a battle of the bands, it ends up being a … battle of the tacos?” Hansen said lightheartedly.
Ojeda’s overreliance on jam ultimately sunk his dish and led to his elimination, while Ford’s hearty tacos drew a favorable response from the judges; Zappa’s “succulent” treatment of the poultry was also praised. Hansen distinguished his version of the dish with a spicy champagne and jam reduction after not being able to find avocados to add flavor, a disappointment he had expressed to Ultimate Classic Rock in an exclusive interview. “There’s just the right amount of heat [in the sauce],” observed judge Chris Santos.
In the second round, the remaining three competitors were tasked with using lamb T-bones, graffiti eggplant, string cheese and beer to create an entrée. Zappa whipped up a tasty chimichurri sauce that wowed the panel of judges."“I think it’s damn tasty,” Sánchez told him. “This is the kind of sauce you can put on a dirty boot and eat it." Zappa's attempt at making a crispy cheese garnish called frico fell short, however.
Hansen, meanwhile, went for complexity: an Indian-inspired pan-seared lamb with beer and coconut milk curry sauce, as well as eggplant and cheese, and a side salad. He cut the fat off the lamb before cooking, a trick he gleaned from previous Chopped episodes. The judges lavished the dish with praise, with Sántos calling the sauce, “f---ing awesome,” while Alex Guarnaschelli was impressed that he roasted and browned the lamb in the oven.
A visibly disappointed Ford ended up being cut after this round. Although she cooked up a mean grilled eggplant side dish thanks to a layer of bubbly melted cheese sautéed in olive oil and beer, judges docked her for under-seasoned lamb that wasn’t executed as well as it could’ve been.
Things went a bit off the rails in the final dessert round, whose ingredients included rock candy, fresh ginger, lemon roll and spiced German liqueur. (“Cold as ice!” Hansen quipped to the camera as he opened the bottle of the latter.) As Hansen was making a berry ginger compote tart, he accidentally set a pan of the liqueur on fire. Meanwhile, Zappa’s attempt to make pancakes -- part of a cake dish named after his dad Frank’s song “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” -- ended in burned dough and misshapen flapjacks.
Still, Hansen’s compote, which incorporated the fresh ginger and chopped rock candy along with raspberries and blueberries, and liqueur-infused whipped cream, went over well, even though uncooked puff pastry in the dish didn’t escape Guarnaschelli’s notice. Zappa, despite jokingly lamenting that the messy plating of his dessert “looked like my child’s drawing,” received praise for a rich icing that had both butter and cream cheese.
In the end, however, Hansen prevailed, winning $10,000 for the charity of his choice, the Grammy Foundation. To say he seemed ecstatic about the victory is a vast understatement: “I cannot believe that I am the first rock star Chopped champion!” he said, right as the credits rolled on the episode. “It’s blowing my mind -- it feels fantastic!”
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