5 Arizona chefs to compete on Food Network's 'Chopped'

PHOENIX - Five Arizona chefs are about to put their culinary skills to the test in front of a national audience.

Valley chefs Justin Beckett, of Beckett's Table and Southern Rail; Richard Hinojosa, of Crujiente Tacos; Chef Danielle Leoni, of The Breadfruit and Rum Bar; Adam Allison, who helms Handlebar Diner and co-owns Left Coast Burrito Co.; and Ashley Goddard of Wrigley Mansion, will all compete on Food Network's "Chopped."

In the next few weeks, we're going to see how all of them fared in the competition.

HOW THE COMPETITION WORKS

For those who haven't watched before, the competition is broken into rounds. During each round, chefs are given a basket of unknown ingredients and have 30 minutes to make and plate a dish that not only looks and tastes good but impresses the judge. (This is where you hear a lot of chatter about a dish's texture, flavor, and balance between sweet, savory and acidity.)

After each round, the chef with the less-desirable dish is "chopped," otherwise eliminated. The last chef standing is declared the "Chopped Champion."

WHEN TO WATCH:

  • April 24 - Justin Beckett (Beckett's Table, Southern Rail)
  • April 24 - Danielle Leoni (The Breadfruit and Rum Bar)
  • May 1 - Richard Hinojosa (Crujiente Tacos)
  • May 1 - Ashley Goddard (Wrigley Mansion)
  • May 15 - Adam Allison (Handlebar Diner)

A spokesperson for Food Network provided the air dates above but noted the schedule could change. Make sure to check your local TV guide for specific times.

WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING ON THE SHOW?

"It's all still a little surreal," said Chef Justin Beckett, of Beckett's Table, about being on the show. "It's an absolute machine," he said.

He said the experience was what he expected it to be, and at the same time, nothing like he expected it to be.

Even more surreal, while standing outside a McDonald's in New York City (that's the location the contestants were told to meet at) he discovered another Valley chef, Danielle Leoni, of The Breadfruit and Rum Bar, was competing as well, and on the same episode.

"I walk up and it's freaking Justin Beckett," Chef Leoni said, laughing.

Did you have any idea? "No way, man. They're so top secret with Chopped. No way," she said.

Leoni, who competed on Cutthroat Kitchen before, described the show as "wild," "crazy" and "awesome." 

She said as part of the filming, the chefs had to open their baskets a couple of times, but there is a sheet inside covering up the ingredients.

"It's the epitome of suspense," she said.

As for that looming ticking countdown, Chef Hinojosa, of Crujiente, said "the clock really is the clock. It starts at 20 or 30 minutes and ticks down."

How do you prepare? You can practice making dishes in a half-hours time, or less.

For Beckett, he had his team give him four random ingredients and he'd come up with different dish ideas.

Chef Hinojosa said he wanted to "keep his menu open and not try to force anything." He had a few dishes in his mind he knew he could execute well in the time allotted, but it depended on what was in the basket.

"You don't know what you're gonna get. That's the wild card," he said.

Goddard, the chef at Wrigley Mansion, said in an email that the experience was "was one of the craziest and most fun things I have done in my career."

"A once in a lifetime experience that some days I still cant believe happened," she said.

Many restaurants and chefs have been featured on national TV shows on Food Network and Travel Channel, including Diner's Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy's Grocery Games, Ginormous Food and Man vs. Food. Watch the video above to see some restaurants featured on Triple D.

VISIT THE RESTAURANTS:
Beckett's Table, 3717 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Southern Rail, 300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013
The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, 108 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Crujiente Tacos, 3961 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018
Handlebar Diner, 5149 S Inspirian Parkway, Mesa, AZ 85212
Wrigley Mansion, 2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix, AZ 85016

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