Chopped Champion Wade Burch of New Providence Headed to Grand Finale of “Chopped Champions” on the Food Network
He watched all of the previous shows, making notes of how many times they re-use certain ingredients to try to guess what might come up in the baskets. While the other contestants seemed stumped at some of the basket contents, Wade took it in stride. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” says Burch. “I was never a boy scout, but I make sure to know as much as I can to be prepared.”
The only time he was momentarily stumped was upon opening the basket for the first course. The ingredients were Chinese Celery, Fresh Chick peas, Country Style Pate, and Preserved Lemons. “The pate threw me at first. I just couldn’t think of anything else to do but slice it.”
Burch made a batch of crostini for this round that ended up a bit burnt. He scraped off the worst parts and just moved on. “I was furious,” he said. “I knew they were going to say something about it.”
Down to three chefs for the next round, the mystery basket held Rack of Antelope, Stinging Nettles, Port Wine Cheese, andJicama. Burch was the only contestant to roast his rack of antelope whole instead of as separate chops. The judges doubted he could finish in time, but he knew it was the way to go. “It’s the way you have to cook game,” explained Burch.
Chef Burch cut his finger during the preparation of his second course, splattering blood in the next station over, annoying his competitor, James. “It probably cost me three to four minutes. In a round of only thirty minutes, that counts. What, did he think it was actually my strategy to cut my finger so I can get blood on his stuff?” he joked.
He presented his finished dish to the judges and received astounding praise for his antelope reduction. “This is the best sauce ever made in that kitchen,” remarked one judge.
Burch explained that that was part of his strategy. “I used most of the ingredients at least two ways. It builds flavor and ties the dish together. I may not be the most creative chef, but you can’t eat creativity. Taste is what counts.”
The third and final course was down to Wade and his blood-spattered neighbor, James. The last basket of the show contained Nopales (Prickly Pear Cactus), Sweet Potatoes, Mezcal (an alcoholic beverage made from agave), and Pie Crust. He made a sweet potato pudding, cookies and fried Nopales. After judging the two desserts, Burch triumphed as the winner. The judges chastised James for too much smack talk and not enough attention to his cooking, but Burch shrugged it off and said it didn’t bother him. “I just shut him up with some comebacks. Kitchens are like that. That’s where you get this kind of personality.”
His quick comebacks and sharp tongue were held, though, when asked for any hints about the upcoming grand finale. “My lips are sealed,” he said after explaining that they all had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
TV.com, however, offers us this teaser: “The chefs find catfish and cherry cola in the Appetizer basket, pig for the Entrée round, and deceptively simple ingredients for the Dessert round.” We’ll just have to wait until Sept. 27 when the finale airs to see what Burch and his fellow contestants do with their ingredients.
With all of this expertise right here in New Providence, does Burch have any plans to bring his experience home to his neighbors? “I would love to,” he begins, “but I don’t know where I’d find the time and couldn’t pay the bills the way I do now with things as they are.”
New Providence is currently a dry town, with no serving liquor licenses for any local businesses. However, there is a referendum set for November that will allow the town residents to vote for an additional three licenses to be made available for restaurants. “It’s the most logical choice to pass it,” says Burch. “That would have an impact on the town. It’s the only way anyone will compete with surrounding towns. I’ve been pushing for it for the past six or seven years. A license would change the whole dynamic of my economic concerns, too.”
Tune in to Food Network on Sept. 27 to see Chef Wade Burch take on the other three finalists for the $50,000 grand prize.