I’m addicted to “Chopped,” the Food Network cooking competition where chefs battle with culinary wits and creativity. Contestants are given a scandalously brief amount of time to concoct a three course gourmet meal with mystery ingredients such as Swiss chard, red snapper, bubble gum, and Provolone cheese. Somehow, incongruity has to end up being tasty. After each course, dishes are evaluated by celebrity chefs and one contestant is chopped.
Aside from the $10,000 prize, contestants want to become Chopped Champion for the bragging rights or simply to garner the approval of their parents. The competition is fierce and cutthroat. Trash talking is encouraged and bloated egos are on display.
My favorite episode ended up being a cook-off between Lance Nitahara, the chef at Camp of the Woods Resort in the Adirondacks, and Yoanne Magris, a lovely French woman who wanted to win in order to visit her dying grandmother in France.
During one of the interviews, Lance winsomely talked about his faith. “Before God, I was a jerk. I was okay with stepping over people if I wanted,” he revealed. “But now, I’m able to do things with grace.” It was the first time I had heard someone mention their faith on the show.
During the second round, Yoanne slipped and fell carrying a pot of boiling water, scalding her legs. Amazingly, she completed her dish and went to the final round – against Lance. Afterwards, Nitahara asked her if she was alright and inquired about her ailing grandmother, displaying a rare moment of pastoral compassion on Chopped. “I’m so glad you made it to the last round,” Nitahara told his competitor as they awaited the final verdict. “I think you deserve to win. I really do.” “That’s not fair,” said Yoanne. “We both won, no matter the results.”
As they stood before the judges, Lance had edged out Yoanne by a whisker. As she began to walk away, Lance said, “Wait, I didn’t expect to win and so I wasn’t expecting to get the money. So, you know what? You deserve to see your grandmother. I am going to give you the ticket.”
Everyone on the set was flabbergasted. Never before had a victor shared the prize money. “Wow, what an experience,” Yoanne said after the show. “This was the most beautiful gift that some can get and I will never forget it.”
Lance’s authentic testimony of grace found itself beautifully lived out on Chopped. “What I have discovered from my faith is that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” Lance observed. “And today, the journey was great.” Amen, brother. Amen.