Emily Chapman is carving out a name for herself in the culinary world. Since graduating from Brookdale’s Culinary Education Center in 2011, the Ocean Township native has moved to Brooklyn and signed on as sous chef at David Santos’ Louro in Manhattan.
Following a year in which Louro was voted the best restaurant in New York City by the website Chowhound, Chapman began 2015 by slicing and dicing the competition on the Food Network program Chopped.
The show, which forces four professional chefs to use uncommon “mystery ingredients” and prepare meals in as little as 15 minutes, was exactly as hectic as it looks on TV, Chapman said.
“When they say, ‘the clock starts now,’ the clock really starts now,” Chapman said. “The first view of the ingredient basket is really the first view of the basket. I think the funniest part for me was how quickly the reality – no pun intended – hits you in the first round.”
In the episode, titled “Money Savers,” Chapman and her competitors were given mystery ingredients that cost less than $10. The worst, she said, was a ham steak.
“I hate ham steak, with a passion,” Chapman said. “I guess I let myself down by not really focusing on it during the round, partially because I just wanted it to disappear.”
Speed bumps aside, Chapman was able to prepare a full-course dinner that won over the judges and, more importantly, won her a cool $10,000.
It has been a productive few years for Chapman, who never even considered a career as a chef until relatively recently. After high school, she was taking classes at a university, working as a restaurant server and mired in a bad relationship. In 2009, Chapman said she decided to hit the reset button.
On the advice of her boss, she enrolled in Brookdale’s Culinary Education Center in Asbury Park and began pursuing a career in the “back of the house.” Almost immediately, she discovered her passion for food, flavor and the life of a chef, Chapman said.
“The chef instructors were always inspiring, always supportive of the creativity that the students had,” she said. “I know I wouldn’t have pushed myself as much as I have if it wasn’t for those who believed in me. I guess I still don’t want to let them down.”
Chapman isn’t the first Brookdale culinary graduate to catch the attention of the Food Network. In 2013, James Beard Award finalist Andrew Araneo (Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, Keyport) beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a Cajun shrimp “throwdown” in Keyport. Last fall, Howell native Matt Levine (Coastal Chaos, Brick), took second place on the Food Network competition show “Rewrapped.”
Chapman’s Chopped episode will air again on Saturday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.
PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY CHAPMAN