Blue cheese lollipops, anyone?
What, no takers?
Well, on Tuesday night’s finale of Food Network’s “Chopped Champions,” Washington chef Adam Greenberg had no choice but to use the less-than-appealing ingredient in the lamb entree he was tasked with making in 30 minutes.
“The blue cheese lollipop is probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever put in my mouth,” he told the cameras. In an interview Wednesday, Greenberg, the executive chef at Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant on 14th Street NW, said the candy didn’t even taste like blue cheese. “It just had no place in the basket,” he said. (For the uninitiated, “Chopped” is a cooking competition that starts with four chefs per episode. Competitors are given a series of three baskets of surprise ingredients and have a set amount of time to make dishes using them, with one chef eliminated per course.)
In the end, Greenberg melted the lollipop into a cream sauce for his lamb ragu with penne pasta. That ingenuity, and more, earned him the title on “Chopped Champions,” which brought together winners from previous episodes who competed for ultimate bragging rights — and $50,000. Each of the four finalists had already won an episode in the 16-member champions’ bracket.
By the way, Greenberg, 36, is still waiting on the check. Even though filming wrapped in November, the money does not come until the episode has aired. He and his wife, Anna, will probably do some traveling, but they intend to put away most of the prize, perhaps destined one day for a down payment on a house.
Barcelona hosted a viewing party Tuesday evening, and Greenberg said even though he knew the outcome, watching the episode was just as nerve-wracking as the actual competition.
“When you’re on the show, you don’t taste other people’s food. You don’t pay attention to what anyone else is doing,” said Greenberg, who also excelled in the appetizer round with a blood clam seviche. “You’re just focused on what you’re doing.” Plus, he was hearing some of the judges’ commentary for the first time.
What little tension there was between Greenberg and his rivals mostly involved equipment. Greenberg managed to beat Deborah Caplan to the meat grinder in the lamb challenge (not shown on air: the first one ended up not working and he lost five minutes while a replacement was procured), but in the dessert round, Andre Fowles got to the ice cream maker first.
“It is a competition, so there is a point where I was like, ‘Is he going to hog the ice cream machine, or not let me use it?'” Greenberg recalled. But Fowles was a good sport, and even with Greenberg cleaning out the machine by hand before pouring his base in, he had enough time to spare the four minutes needed to churn the Satsuma mandarin ice cream before assembling the sundae he presented to the judges (the mandatory ingredients were the mandarins, chocoflan, caramelized onions and smoked almonds).
Big win notwithstanding, it’s back to work as usual for Greenberg. Still, he’s letting himself bask a little bit and enjoy the moment.
“It’s a really cool, cool experience,” he said. “I’m having fun with it.”