TRAVERSE CITY — Southwestern seared duck breast with sweet pepper, duck breast and bitter melon ratatouille. Sesame and pork rind crusted black cod with sautéed dinosaur kale and asparagus. Spirulina and mint infused fruit salad with clotted cream cheesecake dressing and angel food cake croutons.
That’s what it took for chef and Traverse City native Phillip Dell to beat out the competition on the May 30 episode of the Food Network show “Chopped.”
The show hosted by former “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America” judge Ted Allen is a cooking competition about skill, speed and ingenuity. Each week, four chefs compete before a panel of expert judges to turn baskets of everyday and weird ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal.
Dell, of Las Vegas, competed on a special “Cook Your Butt Off” episode that featured chefs with weight-loss stories. The owner of Sin City Chefs, a private chef and on-site catering service company, lost 92 pounds by changing his diet.
“It was not uncommon for me to eat an entire pizza and a few beers at least three times a week, and that’s just one example,” said Dell, a 1995 Traverse City Central High School graduate. “I have a huge sweet tooth. It wasn’t unusual for me to eat a whole bowl of cookie dough. I drank a dozen cans of Coke a day, not including what I drank (while working).”
A former pastry chef with a degree from the prestigious Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, Dell now also teaches on-site classes on how to transform classic recipes into healthy, great-tasting dishes. He said he went on the show to make a point.
“The coup de grâce was the $10,000 prize,” he said. “But for me it’s all about showing people that you can cook extremely good food that’s still healthy for you.”