Chef chops down competition
Ryan Reed has always loved playing with his food and it sure paid off for him.
Reed, a Malaspina University-College culinary arts grad, was last week’s winner on the Food Network TV show Chopped Canada.
The contest starts with four competitors, who have to utilize certain ingredients to cook an appetizer, main course and then dessert. After each course, one chef is ‘chopped,’ with the lone winner earning a $10,000 prize.
The 31-year-old has participated in cooking competitions before, winning a Vancouver Island Chef of the Year contest in 2011, but the Chopped TV show was a totally different experience.
“Usually I don’t run in the kitchen and I didn’t stop running the whole time we were there,” Reed said. “It’s pretty unnerving … There’s so much pressure and there’s so many people, the production value’s so huge on it. I’m not used to that kind of stuff.”
He prepared turkey sausage wrapped in Swiss chard as his appetizer, steamed clams with an artichoke verde sauce as his entree and lava cake and peach sorbet as his desserts.
There was more to it than that, though – Chopped producers throw in unusual ingredients to up the degree of difficulty. Reed had to incorporate, for example, barbecue-flavoured potato chips into his main course and beef jerky and cream of wheat into his dessert.
He made a quinoa with the hickory chips, put cream of wheat in his lava cake and served up candied beef jerky and wheat jerky cookies.
“Things went fairly well for me. I know all my food tasted really good,” he said. “Some of my plating was a little sloppy. You’re trying to get things on the plate, trying to do too much in too little time.”
As the dessert round ended, Reed glanced over and noticed his competitor had burned some of his dessert.
“When I looked at his plates and I looked at my plates, I had a good feeling that I had it in the bag because I made a really rock-solid dessert,” he said.
He thought the judges were bit hard on him at times, but recognized that it makes for entertaining TV.
“It’s what they do, they’re there to critique and give you their opinion,” he said. “You take it with a grain of salt and move on to the next round.”
Reed had to keep his win secret since the show was filmed in Toronto last June. Finally he was able to have a viewing party Thursday with friends at a restaurant in Vancouver.
Reed lives in Victoria, but got his start in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother and took his first cooking classes at John Barsby Secondary School under Bruce Chandler, the much-respected chef who died last year.
Reed went on to Malaspina University-College, where he graduated with honours from the culinary arts program. Since then he worked as a sous-chef in Kelowna and travelled and cooked in different parts of Asia before returning to Vancouver Island and working at hotels in Victoria.
He is in the process of putting together a business plan to open a restaurant in Vancouver specializing in Pacific Northwest ingredients.
Being a Chopped champ can only help him achieve his goals.
“Hopefully it opens some doors,” Reed said. “It’s just reaffirming to know I can cook with some of the best chefs in Canada.”