Rockville chef Jeff Eng didn’t win the last time he appeared on “Chopped,” but that doesn’t mean he got chopped from the competition altogether—Food Network is offering redemption.
Eng, executive chef at Tower Oaks Lodge (part of the Clyde's Restaurant Group), will be appearing on “Chopped Redemption” on Nov. 5. "Redemption" gives chefs who appeared on prior episodes of “Chopped” a chance to wow a panel of celebrity chef judges.
To celebrate—though we don’t know whether Eng will win, Tower Oaks is hosting a watch party the night the show airs.
"Chopped" is a reality competition that airs Tuesday nights on Food Network.
In order to win a cash prize, chefs must eke out gourmet from ingredients that just sound wrong. When Eng appeared on the show last year, for example, he had to work his magic on leftover pizza, leftover beer, graffiti eggplant and dried plums. He made it to the finals, but in the end the judges thought his dish fell short.
Patch caught up with Eng on a weekday morning at Tower Oaks to talk about the taping, which happened in January.
Sitting across the table with his signature Mowhawk—it was the color of neon grapefruit pulp on the day of Patch’s interview—and a “Dia de los Puercos” T-shirt, Eng talked about his latest TV experience, the strangest meal he’s ever concocted off camera and the one meal he’d rather make for other people than eat himself.
Here are excerpts from that interview:
Patch: How much can
you say about how you did—do you feel redeemed?
Eng: I felt a lot more comfortable this time, having been in the kitchen before, knowing the layout. The first time I didn't realize it was going to be a 14-hour day and how much just the wear on you that just sitting, waiting [has]. Your mind does weird things during that time. You start to second-guess yourself. I was more prepared for that this go-round.
Patch: How did you
feel watching the episodes from the first time you were on the show?
Eng: It was a 13-hour shoot. They chop it all up and condense it down to an hour—probably 40 minutes with all the commercials. So, you kind of wonder what they're going to leave and what's going to end up on the cutting room floor. That was fun for me to see that they left in the parts that made me look good. There were some parts where they could have twisted it and made me look like the bad guy or make me look like the jerk on the show. I'm glad they didn't do that.
Patch: What parts
would have made you look like a jerk?
Eng: Like I said, you start to get tired and they try to lead you into saying certain things, bad things about the other contestants. Things like that. They kind of play it both ways—leave it up to whoever's putting it together to see which way it goes.
Patch: Now, you guys
are presented with weird things and are asked to make something awesome out of
it. What's the strangest meal you've concocted off camera?
Eng: I was at a Christmas party—so there's a little drinking involved—and this was after I had filmed the first time. My friend who was hosting the party, pulled out a dozen eggs, a Red Bull, smoked salmon and black licorice.
I poached the egg, made a Red Bull hollandaise sauce. The black licorice, I think I melted down. The smoked salmon, I kind of left raw on there. I did a stoner-eggs benedict, I guess.
Patch: Was it good?
Eng: No, it wasn't. I'm going to blame the alcohol for my judgment on that call.
Patch: I'm curious,
what's something you'd rather cook for someone else rather than eat?
Eng: I'm not a big breakfast guy, but I like to cook breakfast. I like making breakfast for people. I think that's something everyone thinks they know how to do—but when it gets down to it, it's a lot of work.
Patch: What's so
complicated about breakfast?
Eng: I try to make it special. I like to do twists on eggs benedict, huevos rancheros—put my little spin on it. People aren't going to wake up and poach their own eggs, the whole deal. … Cereal? A bagel? A scrambled egg? Maybe. I like to be a little more involved. And then you know sweet stuff—French toast, pancakes—make them special.
If you go …
What: Viewing party
for Chef Jeff Eng’s appearnce on “Chopped Redemption”
Where: Tower Oaks Lodge, 2 Preserve Parkway, Rockville
When: Tuesday, Nov. 5. Viewing party starts at 9 p.m.; show airs at 10 p.m. on Food Network.
More: Contact Tower Oaks Lodge for details about the viewing party, 301-294-0200. Learn more about the show at FoodNetwork.com.