Chopped!: Guarnaschelli---the Simon Cowell of cooking

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Frola plates his duck appetizer.
Frola plates his duck appetizer.

Last night's episode of Chopped!, "Pride on the Plate," depicted the gastronomic talents of Roshni Mansukhani, an executive sous and private chef in Boston whose parents think she chose the wrong career; Giuliano Matarese of Arte Cafe; Pasquale Frola, executive sous at Naples 45 (and whose wife is a Rockette); and Shaya Klechevsky, kosher personal chef and owner of At Your Palate, based in Brooklyn. Judges this time around were Marc Murphy and Chris Santos, alongside the always-irascible Alex Guarnaschelli.

Ingredients for the appetizer round were duck breast, polenta and Sharon fruit (an inbred cousin of the persimmon). Early on, Guarnaschelli pointed out that each of the chefs would bring their cultural heritage into their dishes, and in the case of Klechevsky, the man wore his cultural heritage on his sleeve, kvetching, "There's a fire under my tochis!"Sadly, that fire consumed his very soul, as he was chopped for a greasy cardamom polenta and leathery duck (during which a smarmy Guarnaschelli deemed his appetizer unappetizing, noting that the word appetizing is part of the word appetizer...thank you for that dingleberry of wisdom). Matarese was also reprimanded for not getting his sauce on the plate—a foreboding symptom of poor time management.

Entres had to be made with rainbow trout, baby turnips, tamarind concentrate and serrano ham. Again, Matarese was unable to finish all of his dishes, yet his seared trout with tamarind-glazed turnips and arugula-and-serrano-ham fritters was flavorful enough to bring him to the dessert round. Upon receiving Mansukhani's dish of poached trout, Guarnaschelli—quickly becoming the Simon Cowell of Chopped!—did nothing to hide an acrimonious glare at the messy plate in front of her. Still, the effort was enough to best Frola's baked trout stuffed with ham, which the judges felt needed a starch.

Desserts brought sliced almonds, brioche, Sambuca and Okinawan sweet potatoes. For a third time, Matarese's dish was praised for its flavor, but the chef was scolded for not plating in time (his open-face cannoli was missing a chunk of almond croquant). Rightly so, his sweet ride took a visit to the chop shop. With swinging fists, a teary Mansukhani became a Chopped! champion, proving her parents wrong and herself right—shove it, Mom and Dad!—Zachary Feldman

Next week: "Pretty Please with a Pepper on Top," with piquillo peppers and snap peas.

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