The opponents were tougher and the baskets of ingredients were certainly more bizarre than his first "Chopped" experience, but Adam Greenberg of Barcelona Wine Bar racked up his second win on the Food Network competition show Tuesday night.
The 36-year-old West Hartford native, whose culinary career began at age 18, emerged victorious from his appearance on the five-week "Chopped Champions" series. The pre-taped tournament brings back 16 winners from previous seasons (Greenberg won his title in February 2015) with four chefs competing on each episode. The winner from each battle will advance to the grand finale, with the opportunity to take home a $50,000 prize.
In the first round, the four chefs faced a basket of smoked sausage, cavatappi pasta, Napa cabbage and frozen yogurt. Paying homage to the "late night eats" theme of his first competition, Greenberg turned the ingredients into a baked macaroni and cheese dish, melding the yogurt with heavy cream to make a cheese sauce.
The second round brought a basket of beef kidneys, petite French lentils, beets and pickled cockles, and Greenberg pan-seared the meat, turning the lentils and mollusks into a stew with bacon, onions and potatoes. In on-camera interviews, he said he hoped to use the $50,000 finale prize toward a down payment on a house and for the next step in his career - opening his own restaurant.
"Respect isn’t given, it’s earned," said the Connecticut-raised chef, who's presently heading up the kitchen at Barcelona's Washington, D.C., restaurant on 14th Street. "What’s driving me is looking back at all the chefs I’ve worked for, just to be able to show them how hard work, dedication, passion pays off."
In the final round, he faced chef Dafna Mizrahi for the dessert battle, using the mandatory ingredients of queso arrocero (a cheese from Nicaragua), peanut butter chocolate wafers, raspberry spoon fruit and dandelion coffee.
Greenberg used his skill and experience with Spanish cuisine to make a batter for churros, with a creamy chocolate dipping sauce using the queso, spoon fruit, coffee and chili flake. But he ran into issues with a pastry bag and was unable to pipe the churros into their traditional tube shape. With time running out, he cooked the batter as fritters instead.
Judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Aarón Sánchez and Marcus Samuelsson weren't fully impressed with his final presentation -- "I don’t see the imagination really come through here," said Sánchez -- but when they tasted competitor Mizrahi's dish, they discovered her sticky-bun dessert had sections of raw puff-pastry dough. After deliberating and taking all three rounds into consideration, they chose Greenberg as the victor.
Greenberg celebrated his win, but turned his sights toward the finale.
"Being a two-time "Chopped" winner is an amazing feeling. But there’s a bigger goal in sight and that’s to be a "Chopped" grand champion," he said. "I know I can win that $50,000."
The "$50,000 Payday" finale airs April 26 at 10 p.m. Information: foodnetwork.com.