Paul Cao, executive chef-owner of Burnt Crumbs in Irvine and Huntington Beach, is the latest local chef to represent O.C. on Food Network’s “Chopped.” In the episode titled “Soup and Sandwich Savvy,” Cao will face chefs in three rounds of cooking challenges. In each round, they are asked to prepare a soup-and-sandwich duo incorporating all the ingredients (usually unconventional) in a curated basket. The episode airs Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.
We talked to Cao about his experience on the show:
Did you prepare for the show in any way?
In terms of the savory stuff (appetizer and entree), I felt pretty confident. I wasn’t very confident about having something in my back pocket for dessert. I called my chef friends and asked them for easy recipes. Is there anything quick I can make in 20 minutes? I had a churro recipe, an ice cream recipe, and a funnel cake recipe in my back pocket.
Did the show meet your expectations?
Having watched the show so many times, I felt like I was prepared for whatever they threw at me. In terms of what I expected and what the reality was, it was night and day. It was honestly the hardest cooking thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve been doing this for about 18 years. I’ll never talk shit on anyone on “Chopped” again. Each round was 30 minutes, but it really felt like two minutes. It goes by so fast, and each round feels like it’s going faster and faster. I would say the time constraints are way harder than what they give you in the baskets. It’s actually more of a mental competition than anything. I have mad props to everyone who’s ever done it. It is way harder than you think.
What does being on “Chopped” mean to you?
I honestly did it for my kids. I have two boys, a four-year-old and a five-year-old. I honestly did it for them because I wanted them to think daddy was cool being on TV. Besides doing it for my kids, I was really proud to represent O.C. on the show. I grew up here, I was born here. Any kind of exposure we can get to bring a little more attention to Orange County is great. I think there’s a lot of talent here.
Both Burnt Crumbs locations are open for patio dining and takeout. Tune into a livestream “Chopped” watching party with Paul Cao on Instagram.