'Chopped' a sweet experience for New Canaan chef
Spoiler alert. New Canaan chef Silvia Baldini's appearance on the Food Network's popular "Chopped" cooking competition aired Tuesday night, and I'm going to reveal how she did. So if you want to wait for a re-airing (April 9 at 8 p.m.; April 10 at 3 a.m.), you should stop reading now.
It was an April Fool's edition of "Chopped" and little was as it seemed. Basket ingredients in this episode of the popular Food Network cooking competition included an onion that looked like a caramel apple, mashed potatoes that looked like ice cream, and meatloaf that you would swear was a birthday cake.
Ha ha. Pretty funny.
But the joke was on the competition and New Canaan chef Silvia Baldini had the last laugh winning the coveted title of "Chopped" champion and taking home the $10,000 top prize.
Baldini, founder of the New Canaan-based culinary group Strawberry and Sage was not always a chef.
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She began her career as a Madison Avenue art director. But, after some time, she decided to go back to school to attain her lifelong dream of being a chef. A native of Turin, Italy, she went on to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in London and took classes at the Cornell/French Culinary Institute restaurant management program in New York.
On "Chopped," Baldini made it through the appetizer round of the episode ("Fake Cake, Real Stakes") with her creation, "Sweet and Sour Noodles with Caramel Sausage."
Judge Marc Murphy said, "You somehow came up with something that is pretty good here."
However, in the entree round, things took a downturn for Baldini. Judges weren't totally sold on her creative but underseasoned "British Meat Pie with Boiled Spaghetti Squash."
"It needed so much more seasoning," judge Maneet Chauhan said.
"It needs salt," added judge Chris Santos.
And when judges start talking salt, well, it's not usually a good sign.
But one of her competitors used what Santos called "a crazy amount of fondant," a supersweet combination of sugar and water that is used as a base for icings and candies, in his dish in the same round -- so Baldini was spared the chopping block.
The New Canaan chef sealed her victory in the dessert round with her "Poached Cannoli with Macerated Strawberry." Murphy called it "one of the most delicious desserts I've ever had in this kitchen."
When her opponent's dessert was revealed as the losing dish, it was official.
"And that means you, chef Silvia Baldini, are the `Chopped' champion," said host Ted Allen.
Baldini said she spent about 12 hours filming the show and called it "a blast."
"There is pressure and you have to be a kick-ass chef to be on the show," Baldini said of the experience. "You really have to know what you are doing in that kitchen; you kind of have to not be scared and be able to perform."
And after hearing Allen name her champion?
"I cannot believe that I won `Chopped," Baldini said.