Q&A with NYC's Chopped Champion Emily Chapman!

While perusing Facebook, you always come across old high school classmates – and some are more interesting than others. Emily Chapman is one of the interesting ones, and truth is, she always has been. Emily always had a genuine edge to her. No one could argue that. So, when photos of her crafting up delicious-looking, handmade delicacies at NYC hotspot Louro started popping up on my newsfeed, I was impressed (and immediately hungry), but I wasn’t necessarily shocked. When she made a status about appearing on Chopped, though? That got me pumped. Being on Chopped is the coolest. thing. ever. I think it’s the most intelligent and creative cooking show on T.V., and the fact that (spoiler alert) Emily won it all gets me psyched! Check out my Q&A with the Louro NYC Chef below.

1.       So, first off, congrats on the win! I would imagine Chopped is one of the most noticeable chef ‘medals’ out there, so to speak. What made you decide to apply and how did you end up getting a spot to compete?
Thanks for the congrats. Funny enough I didn't even sign myself up to be on this show. A friend and fellow chef of mine, Russell Jackson, had worked with me on a few occasions and was really impressed with my passion and drive. When I saw him again a short while after, he had informed me that he had told the Food Network that he knew a chef he felt would rock out on the show (his words, not mine). I thought he was talking about my boss, and I was like wow that's great for Dave! I was then informed that it was not Dave he was implying, but myself.

2.       What were you most nervous/excited about prior to competing, if anything?
 Going on national television is a nervous feeling, regardless of what it's for. A competition is a competition, but you know that millions of people will be watching you. So there really isn't any room for error. Another very stressful aspect is that youre not just representing yourself, but the restaurant you work for and every single chef that has ever trained you. That's a lot of pressure (I mean, if you care about your former chefs). I was excited too. I mean, its a great opportunity that lots of chefs/cooks would love to have, so I was very grateful.

3.       Which ingredient was most challenging and what did you do with it?
The ham steak. I don't know what it is about that thing, but I just dont like it. I remember eating it as a kid, and just not liking it. When I saw it, I was fairly grateful because it was the deciding factor on my final dish. I saw ham, and then lemon lime soda, so I instantly knew I would do a version of pho. I should have taken more time to try and enhance it a bit more, but I knew that the most important aspect of that dish would be executing the broth. I mean, thirty minutes people!

4.       I hear it’s true: you really do see the ingredients right before the clock starts. What is your #1 tip for cooking under such pressure?
Yup, it's true. You see the ingredients in real time. I was actually happy about that. I was glad the show was real. But tips for cooking under pressure? Anyone who saw my episode knows that I was a shakey disaster in the first round. It's just really overwhelming. Theres a clock going, and a LOT of cameras and people following you around and are all up in your face. The thing that switched for me mentally was when I finally figured out my dish. Then it's just having confidence, I cook every day for more than 12 hours. If I don't have a natural instinct to just keep cooking, I shouldn't be in this business! lol

5.       New York City is saturated with good grub. Can you depict your ideal food day and where you would have breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Breakfast... hmm. Not much of a breakfast person. If I do, I just like bagels. Bagels on the Square are my favorite, and Jack's Coffee is my ultimate saving grace (Mad Max is the way to go). Lunch is easy, I'll give you my top three. The beet sandwich at Little Park; a paratha roll from Mirch Masala; or surplus of food, especially soup dumplings, from Hot Kitchen. Dinner for me I have three "go tos" Uncle Boons, Dirt Candy, and call me bias, but Louro.

6.       And finally, there was a part during the introductions where you mentioned currently “having no fear” and that’s something that caught my attention. Because from my personal perspective, I never remember you having any fear. How has cooking brought about, or fine-tuned, your sense of fearlessness?
Having no fear starts with believing in yourself. Once you can do that, there really isn't anything left to be afraid of. Cooking has allowed me to get my self confidence back. Knowing that I am talented, that my strive and prickly personality actually can coincide with one another; that's what this industry has allowed me. I can be myself, feel comfortable doing so, and help round out some edges. (Lord knows, I had(ve) a lot of edges!)