How do you take raw mussels, marula liquor, bosc pears and frozen waffles, and within 30 minutes create a meal that will wow a panel of expert chefs?
That was the challenge Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program instructor Andrea Glick of Riverhead was faced with while appearing on the Jan. 11 episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.”
The show takes four chefs and challenges them to create three dishes — an appetizer, an entree and dessert — in three rounds, using a list of ingredients that most cooks would never consider pairing. And if he or she can’t take a combination of say, cream of coconut, baby turnips, wakame seaweed and fish heads and turn it into a tasty gourmet meal, host Ted Allen (of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame) informs the chef that he or she has been “chopped.”
An admitted lover of competitive food shows like “Top Chef,” Ms. Glick said she jumped at the chance to show off her skills on national television. She sent an application one day last summer and got a call from producers the next day.
Ms. Glick, who had worked under world renowned French chef Eric Ripert at his 4-star restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City, knew that not only was the $10,000 grand prize on the line, but her reputation as well.
She took the frozen waffles and turned them into a bread crumb consistency and made a complex broth with the liqueur and pears, a move that seemed to impress the judges.
She called the final dish “New Zealand Mussels with a sweet and sour marula sauce in pear chutney with toasted spiced waffle crumbs.”
“I really like the combination of flavors that you did,” said judge Maneet Chauhan, executive chef of Vermilion restaurant in Chicago. “I think it complemented the natural sweetness of the waffles very well.”
So confident after the contest she was, that she told her fellow contestants that she wouldn’t be the one going home.
“I left that room thinking I won,” she told the News-Review last week. ‘I was like, there was no way.”
Waffle bread crumbs aside, Ms. Glick’s dish failed to make the cut — she was chopped after the first round.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said.
She said her biggest mistake was trying to cook the mussels in a wok that just wouldn’t heat.
“I kicked myself over that one,” she said.
The judges said they had high hopes for Ms. Glick, but the unopened, still-bearded mussels were big strikes against her.
“Andrea your dish was the one we were anticipating the most, given your history,” said Ms. Chauhan. “But there was some serious, basic mistakes.”
She said one of the biggest challenges was that she only had a few minutes to look over the facilities before the show. She also thought her background hurt her chances.
“I thought they put me on a pedestal over the other people,” she said while leaving the show. “And that’s a shame.”
Despite getting kicked off so early, Ms. Glick, who teaches advanced cuisine and international cuisine at SCCC, said it was a fun experience and that she would gladly take a second shot — if there was ever a redemption episode.
“It was great,” she said of the experience. “I would recommend it to anyone.”