Long before Food Network announced that it will be casting New York chefs for its hit cooking game show, Chopped, Rockland chef Chris Holland of DVine Bar in Sparkill applied for the gig. A huge fan of the show (and Alton Brown), he was ultimately chosen to face the harrowing chopping block on Part 3 of Chopped: Alton’s Challenge, a special five-part tournament – and won! Holland’s incredible victory originally aired on October 24, but whether you missed the episode, or were cheering him on through each round, be sure to stay tuned for his appearance in the final showdown of the Food Network tournament on November 7 at 10 pm.
A career-change chef, Holland realized that life is too short not to pursue your dreams, and decided to follow his father’s footsteps in the culinary industry. He now joins the ranks of local culinary legends like Christian Petroni, Nick Di Bona, and Krista Espinal, who have also encountered Food Network fame.
Chopped, the hit Food Network cooking game show, pits four chefs from across the nation against each other in a three-round contest, requiring them to incorporate obscure mystery ingredients into each course. And while in a normal episode, a panel of judges eliminates one contestant per round until one is chosen to win the $10,000 prize, Chopped: Alton’s Challenge is a five-episode tournament in which the legendary Alton Brown chooses the mystery basket ingredients. The winner from each round will then compete for the chance to go home with $50,000.
In anticipation of Holland’s Food Network appearance, we asked him a few questions about the experience of a lifetime.
How and when did you decide to compete on Chopped?
I have wanted to be on the show for as long as it has been on. I started watching it before I became a chef. Watching the episodes, I would imagine to myself how incredible it would be to be up on stage. Once I became a chef, one of the first things I did was apply to the show. I applied every few months for years until I finally got a call.
What was the audition process like?
My first audition was the day after my son Max was born. Needless to say, I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to sell myself to the producers. I didn’t get a call back from the audition, and was pretty disappointed. However, I must have left an impression on them because about six months later, I got a call from them to come in again. Once again, I made my way to NYC (I hate NYC) to audition for the show. This time I opened up more. I figured this would be the last time I auditioned, so I might as well throw it all on the table and open up. I guess it worked because about a month later I got a phone call saying that I had been chosen for the show.
I would imagine it’s extremely competitive, so what was your reaction when you found out that you had been chosen?
When I found out that I had been chosen, I was as excited as I had ever been — other than the birth of my son. As if being chosen wasn’t already amazing, a week later they called back and told me that I would be competing in a tournament with Alton Brown as a guest judge. My two favorite cooking shows in the world are Chopped and Good Eats. Good Eats was my culinary school, and I looked at Alton Brown as a mentor. Needless to say, I went total fan boy at this point, and could barely believe this was actually happening. To say it was a dream coming true is an understatement. This was a wish come true.
On Chopped, you either see competitors who are extremely focused, or who are all over the place. How did you react to the pressure?
The cooking is the cooking. That’s the easy part. I was not worried about anything that they would put in the baskets because I am very confident in my abilities to put flavors together. As a chef, pressure is just part of our job. It’s actually part of the reason we love our jobs.
The hardest, and most nerve-racking part for me was the talking part. I am a very private person, so the most difficult part was opening up about my life in front of cameras. The producers are really good at their jobs over there and they get you to spill your guts.
What was it like to meet Food Network royalty?
Getting the opportunity to meet Food Network royalty was a special experience. It is something I will never forget, in particular Alton Brown. There is the old question, “If you had to pick three people living or dead to have dinner with, who would you choose?” Well, I got a chance to cook dinner for one of my three.
If you’re interested in competing on Chopped, submit an application, here