by Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News
OAKLAND, CA — Friends and family packed Somar Bar in Oakland, CA to cheer on the Bay Area’s own Fil-Am chef, Charleen Caabay, as she competed in the Food Network’s cooking competition, “Chopped.”
With $10,000 dollars to win, Chef Charleen faced off against three other contestants in the show’s first ever New Year’s Party.
“The whole time, I was nervous. I was looking at the other chefs and was seeing their strengths, their weaknesses, but I was more grateful to be on the show itself,” Charleen told BA. “It’s huge!”
The competition started with an extravagant appetizer basket that included $50 worth of caviar, and other pricey ingredients.
Drawing inspiration from her filipino culinary expertise, Chef Charleen presented a crab torta, with collard green-caviar laing.
As she was spared from elimination, she moved on to more premium items in the entree basket.
In this round, Charleen’s martini-steamed lobster tail with BBQ strip loin was a big hit among the judges.
And in the final round — the dessert round — Chef Charleen capped off her performance with a funnel cake with pomegranate-grape compote.
In front of her friends and family in attendance, Charleen was announced the winner.
It was also a relief to chef Charleen as she already knew the results, because the competition took place this past January.
Regardless, she says that this win did not only belong to her — but to the entire Filipino community.
“When I went into Chopped, I wanted to put down filipino food from the get-go. That was something I was comfortable with it. I wanted to show it. This was my chance to show Filipino food to the world!” she exclaimed.
“I just want people to understand that this is a person that is self taught, and she cooked her food, and that food she cooked and loved got her into a pop-up, got her into a restaurant, got her into TV, and it was all Filipino food,” said Christine De La Rosa, co-owner of Kainbigan.
Chef Charleen is planning a trip to the Philippines in the near future, to develop a menu for a new restaurant she plans to open soon in the Bay Area.
The Food Network is scheduled to air re-runs of the Chopped episode starting Thursday, December 29th, through New Year’s Eve on Saturday, December 31st.