Chopped: Berkeley restaurants edition

Michael Drummond/File

Welcome to tonight’s episode of Chopped, where we’re featuring some of the most remarkable late-night chefs in the noted foodie enclave of Berkeley — birth of the farm-to-table movement and home to a campus full of promising young gastronomes.

Eligible for competition were renowned restauranteurs at such high-end establishments as Steve’s Korean Bistro, King Pin Patisserie, Cookies Rule Everything Around Me, Blondie’s Italian Pizzeria, Fat Slice Ristorante, Yogurt Park Microcreamery, Thai Basil Brasserie and Sir Smoke’s Poutinerie.

All were tragically eliminated before our final round. We could not forgive some blasphemous mistakes, such as the imperfectly displayed citrus offerings in the Blondie’s foyer.

However, our final four is formidable. Let’s meet the chefs now. Thirty minutes on the clock:

Chef Jeff Carwalker, Artichoke Basille’s Trattoria

“As a natural visionary, I am quite adept at the art of improvisation. I choose to take a modern twist on the iconic Artichoke’s slice and embolden the zest of the cream sauce by making a balsamic reduction and repurposing the artichoke bits into a GMO-free chutney with diced mangos for freshness and pickled red onions for acidity. I sample the so-called “pizza sauce” in my basket, grimace and then brainstorm a way to mask this heinous flavor. I top the slice with spring mix arugula and burrata for buoyancy.”

Chef Melania Wall, Sweetheart Bar and Grille

“I’m looking at the ingredients in my basket, and right away I feel overwhelmed by the variety of textures. Chicken strips? A whole coconut? Organic vanilla beans? What do I do? Suddenly, the answer is obvious. I run to the pantry to grab some agave juice, acai nectar and raw unpasteurized honey, then swoop my basket ingredients off the table and throw all that shit into a blender. Voila! A multidimensional medley of ingredients all contained in one cohesive state of matter. I throw in some boba balls for texture, making sure to tenderize each one before adding it to the slushy mix. I then outdo myself on the presentation by topping the drink with an orchid, and then wait for the palate to stun.”

Chef Dirk B. Nickerson, Crossroads Café and Jazz Club

“My heart is racing, and I can feel my creative juices flowing. My mind is spinning at 100 miles per hour and I begin to lose my cool, when I see some kalamata olives and I immediately think: frittata. I throw the necessary ingredients in a pan and wait for the dish to cook properly. I run to the pantry because I know the frittata’s fluffy flavor will be perfectly enhanced by the pairing of a cilantro and cashew puree. With 10 minutes remaining, I’m feeling ambitious and I decide to make an extra raspberry-herb mascarpone to temper the saltiness of my purée. To stamp my finished product with its signature flare, I isolate the diametrically opposed flavor profile of my creation and plate the offerings in two hemispheres: The frittata with cashew drizzle on the left, with the sweeter mascarpone, and last-minute added cereal — a modest bowl of frosted Mini-Wheats with chilled two-percent homogenized milk — on the right.”

Chef Dave Agrovich, Top Dog Chop House

“Duh. I take this hot link that’s been soaking in chemicals for weeks. I put it on the greasy grill that contains the tears of a thousand futile political rants. I consider making a gastrique out of my sauerkraut, but then I think: Fuck that. I slap a sesame bun on the grill, take your cash and threaten your life if you puke on my counter. And don’t you dare ask for a root beer prematurely, or I’ll introduce your face to this giant spatula in my hand. Comprende?”

Wow. What a charged competition. Alas, it’s chopping time. The judges have made their decision.

“Chef Carwalker, your chutney was more misplaced than a PACS major in Soda Hall. For this reason, you’ve been chopped.”

“Chef Wall, we weren’t sober enough to distinguish between the larynx and the esophagus, so one of your boba balls went down the wrong pipe. That’s on you. For this reason, you’ve been chopped.”

“Chef Nickerson, as we always say when reflecting upon a Crossroads binge: You should’ve just stuck with the cereal. Also, there’s five weeks left in the semester and I’m out of meal points. For these reasons, you’ve been chopped.”

Chef Agrovich, congratulations! You’re our Chopped champion! Your hot sausage was simply delectable (that’s what she said), The acidity of the sauerkraut brilliantly complements the heat of the Russian mustard, and the decision to plate your dish inside a yellow napkin was incredibly avant-garde. However, it’s charming that you believe drunk undergrads in 2016 would actually possess cold, hard cash. Get a Venmo. Eh.. you know what? Fuck it. I’ll also have a Spicy Mango — with a tomato reduction.

Contact Natalie Silver at [email protected].