Raking it up on Chopped II

I went into the entrée round feeling pretty good. I had accomplished my goal of not being cut in the first round. You know when you have the under promise over deliver mindset, so you don’t disappoint yourself? But this is when my real competitive side came out. I wanted all the marbles, or $10,000, because who wouldn’t want $10,000, duh. When I opened up the second basket and pulled out the crubeen I honestly had no idea what it was. In fact as I started to peel back some of the breading I thought it was a rat and nearly threw it off the counter (thankfully, edited out).Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 4.01.06 PMI soon realized it was a pig’s foot and after trying to hack off any meat unsuccessfully I decided to just throw it in a pot for soup and hope for the best. Luckily, I knew just what to do with the other ingredients, mashed potatoes and cheddar would become a potato dumpling , and the cabbage could go in my soup. Somewhere along the lines I decided the dish could use a fresh element so I used the remaining cabbage as a slaw on top, judges love anything two ways. I never even looked over at what my competitors were doing because somehow in this round I found peace. My instincts just took over and it was about getting things done.

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Moment of fear, you can see already cooked potato in there.

My moment of fear, not shown, was when I forgot the Irish cheddar in the dumplings. I had already started frying but had to throw them back in the bowl and mix in the cheddar. But alas I still made it through.

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Judging was easier this round besides the hater Irish man who said it tasted like chicken stock. I was really proud of what I had created. Even with Chef Scott’s rave reviews of his Irish dish (unfair advantage). The judge Scott said Chef Scott’s dish tasted like unicorn tears, what a compliment! On the other hand poor Chef Alex was a nervous wreck and hated her dish so I had a pretty good feeling I was safe.

They shuffled us off to our Chef’s room where we had an agonizing long and not great lunch. So evil, to do lunch in between judging. I realized I had a headache and found some Tylenol. Lunch was pretty uneventful everyone just sitting around saying nice things to each other to make us feel better but secretly hoping they wouldn’t be the one to leave. Judging finally came and it was sad to see Alex go but it felt unreal to be so close to the end. By this time I was probably kinda delirious from being up and drinking coffee all day long.

Everyone who worked on the show must have been tired because it wasn’t long between judging to third and final round! Going into this round I wanted to win so bad I kept giving myself pep talks reminiscent of my swim meet days, “You’ve trained, this is your life, you’ve been making dessert since you were 8. Rake it up!”

When I opened the final basket all my anxiety drifted away, as you can see on my face when I pulled out the Granny Smith Apples.Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 4.20.16 PMTo say they were a gift from above is an understatement. Seeing those apples I knew I was going to win. I have been making random apple desserts since the 90’s (I’m so old, ha) and I knew just what to do. It’s funny this is the round they produced it to seem like I was the most stressed because I was very much at ease. I wasn’t thinking about the money, winning, or what Chef Scott was creating. I was just in a cooking zone to create a delicious dish. You can see my peace and constant smile because I claimed it and I knew I was coming out champion.

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So for those of you who know me, know I’m always very in control of my outward emotions. It’s hard to really know what I’m thinking, just know I’m always thinking.

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What am I thinking?

Matter of fact my friend coined my winning face as, “When you win Chopped, and you knew you would but you gotta look shocked and humble for the people.” Yes, I was pretty confident going into judging but at the end of the day you never know what the judges are looking for, food is after all subjective. Watching myself I now know that if my eyes get big I’m truly excited,Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 4.04.49 PMbecause my eyes were as big as the moon when Chef Scott was chopped. That was an honest reaction and even as I tried to hold in the excitement it came bursting out. I was so happy when Chef Scott exited so I could bask in all my glory. The day was done and I had won!


Contrary to popular belief winning Chopped did not make me an overnight sensation. (except to my friends and family, I’m obviously famous)  I also debated printing T-shirts to wear everyday, “Chopped Champion,” just so everyone could know. Despite a ton of positive feedback I’m still out here in these New York streets on the grind. The day of filming moves so fast I didn’t get to rub elbows with Scott or Amanda and pick their brains, nor did I get to pitch my show to producers. Currently, I’m teaching cooking classes at at Sur La Table’s biggest store in the nation (love this, post coming soon), may have just landed a stable job with someone a little bit famous, and still finding time to shoot Let’s CookIn videos to spread my joy of cooking and show you guys it’s really easy!

Winning Chopped was validation for the past 8 years of choices that were distinctly my own. In such a subjective world I proved my culinary prowess, beat out three talented chefs under extreme time limitations, not to mention was on the Food Network, which I used to dream about as a kid. #lifegoals Yet with so much more to accomplish it’s hard to really relish in the winnings of Chopped. In this journey of life it was a well deserved pit stop, to recharge, reinspire, and give me money to make it through my four months of in between job life. There is still so much further to go but it was great to have a sign I’m going in the right direction.

Missed it? Watch full episode on chefleen.com

Rake it up! Rake it up!


These are my own views and experiences and in no way a reflection of Food Network.


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my life has been a very interesting journey thus far. in my quarter century crisis im and not certain of much except that i love cooking and entertaining, and pleasing people is my passion. (wait that sounded a little funny) i am goofy eccentric, and love to laugh, in fact i often laugh at the most inappropriate times. i place high value in honesty and working hard. i don’t really believe in faking it until you make it, without some base knowledge or some sort of depth to your cause. i believe in making mistakes and trying everything once as long as you bring yourself no harm and no harm to others. i am a new age hippy, my words to live by are freedom, serenity, and love. i look for signs of the world and listen. i do judge, anyone who says they do not is a liar, but i use my judgements against you to reflect back on me to see how i can better myself. i hate constraints of our society, including grammar, punctuation, and recipes. i think fast except when it comes to numbers. the culinary world has always been and shall be my safe haven and outlet. i want to inspire, teach, and learn.

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