Portland chef Rob Evans edged out a fellow James Beard Award winner Tuesday to win the final spot in the Grand Champion round on the Food Network’s “Chopped Champions” show.
Next week Evans will compete for the $50,000 grand prize in the “Grand Finale Battle” airing at 10 p.m.
“I’m ready to take it,” said Evans, the owner of Duckfat and former owner of Hugo’s in Portland. “I’m not going to let anyone get in my way.”
“Chopped Champions” pits 16 past winners of “Chopped” against each other in a five-part tournament. Chefs are given mystery baskets containing ingredients they must use to create a dish in 30 minutes. In each episode, the chefs make an appetizer, an entree and a dessert, with one chef getting eliminated, or chopped, in each round.
To get to the final round, Evans competed against chefs Helen Park, a corporate executive chef from New York; Jean-Louis Gerin, a James Beard Award winner and executive chef at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, and Kris Wessel, a Miami chef.
For an appetizer, Evans made seared mortadella with blanched white asparagus spears and pickled fennel, a dish that helped knock out Wessel. In the next round, Evans’ entree was pan-seared calves liver with caramelized onion rice fritters, a dish the judges characterized as overcooked. But it was Park, who had been talking “chef smack” against Evans all evening, who went home.
Evans’ dessert dish was an espresso maple trifle with corn nut crumble. He used a smoking gun to smoke the cream for his dish, a move that impressed the judges, who said he showed “creativity and finesse.” Gerin was impressed as well, saying he wouldn’t mind losing to Evans because he “wouldn’t have had the guts” to do the same thing.
In the end, Gerin was sent home, “but I’m not upset about the loss because I lost to someone really, really good.”
Asked by host Ted Allen what he would do with the $50,000. Evans said at first that he was trying to win it for his wife Nancy. Later, he said he wanted to use the prize money to buy some new equipment for their western Maine farm.
“I told her I would do it if I could get something like a tractor,” he said of telling his wife about the opportunity to compete. “I don’t want to just throw it to bills.”
Viewers are also voting for their favorite chefs online. Tuesday night, Evans had 20 percent of the vote, second only to finalist Vinson Petrillo, the chef de cuisine at Prospect in Brooklyn, N.Y.