For the second time this year, Culinary Education Center (CEC) alumna Emily Chapman took top honors on the Food Network competition program “Chopped,” defeating celebrity chef Robert Irvine and winning $40,000 in an episode airing on Nov. 12.
The program, titled “Chopped: Impossible,” was a tournament of champions featuring 12 previous “Chopped” winners. Chapman, a 27-year-old Ocean Township native, won $10,000 in her first appearance on the show in January.
Through two shows airing in November, Chapman defeated five professional chefs and restaurant owners by making culinary meals out of strange mystery ingredients such as “thousand-year-old egg” and fried brain sandwiches.
In the finale Chapman went head-to-head with Irvine, an internationally acclaimed chef and host of the Food Network program “Restaurant: Impossible.” Her dish, composed of beef tongue, steak and beef jerky-flavored soda, was declared the winner by a panel of celebrity chef judges.
“This is one of the greatest feelings of my entire life,” Chapman said, following the win. “It’s amazing the love and support I’ve been receiving not just from home, but from strangers all over the country. I did this for them, for everyone who has been there for me and everyone who was cheering me on. It means more than you know.”
Defying odds, however, is nothing new for Chapman. Six years ago she was enrolled in a local university, waiting tables and trapped in an abusive relationship. She needed a change, she said, and decided to leave school and pursue a new career path in the culinary arts. It was not an easy decision.
“I had a lot of skeptics,” Chapman said. “But something about this wild world of cooking really speaks my language of chaotic – yet highly organized – mayhem. Never a dull moment passes in my day, and never a day passes without a lesson to teach or to be learned.”
At the CEC, Chapman was able to “sharpen her knives” and build the foundation for what is now an extremely impressive and promising young career in the restaurant business.
“Our little school has the means to teach students how to unlock their future, but it’s up to the students to take those lessons with them,” she said. “Never let anyone tell you differently. No matter how many chefs send your dishes back, no matter how many times you burn a chicken, just keep cooking. Trust in yourself and the food and eventually it’ll become apart of you.”
While studying at the CEC Chapman also encountered Chef David Santos, who saw promise in the young culinary student and ultimately hired her at his award-winning Louro restaurant in Manhattan following graduation. After honing her skills under Santos, Chapman has now signed on as sous chef at Charlie Bird in the West Village.
“Anyone can succeed in whatever they choose to do,” Chapman said. “The best thing you can do is just close your eyes and dive in; the rest is sink or swim. Doggie-paddle like hell. You can do it!”
To learn more about the Culinary Education Center, click here.