WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – The hit Food Network show “Chopped” will enjoy a taste of Westchester County following Super Bowl XLVIII, as celebrity chef Bruno DiFabio joins the program as its newest guest judge.
DiFabio – the owner of 10 artisanal pizzerias throughout the country, including Pinocchio Pizza restaurants in Pound Ridge, Wilton and New Canaan, Conn., and Amore Pizza in Scarsdale – will preside alongside regular judges Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli in a special pizza-themed episode.
The Ridgefield resident, who is a six-time world pizza champion, said that this may be a one-time gig, but it’s one that he is hopeful of it becoming a recurring opportunity.
“It’s something of a crowning achievement, because pizza is not that big of a feature in the culinary scene, so for Food Network’s most popular show to want to have me, it’s a pretty big achievement,” he said.
During the competition, four world-renowned chefs competed against one another to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert using different mystery boxes that contain four secret ingredients each. For this unique episode, titled “Pizza Perfect,” pizza dough – hand made by DiFabio – was a featured item in each of the boxes. The chefs had to fight the inclination to make a basic pizza, and instead were forced to use the pizza dough in creative ways under an extreme time crunch.
“There were some ingredients that were used that I would never, ever, use in my style of cooking,” DiFabio added. “We knew for weeks what the ingredients were, so I took the opportunity to cook those ingredients myself, only with time on my side. You really have to put yourself out there to be on the show. There were some ingredients in there that I was surprised came out really tasty.”
According to DiFabio, the refined tastes of his patrons have been instrumental in his ascension to the television screens of millions.
“My customer base in Pound Ridge and Scarsdale are from a more elite, affluent area,” he said. “I find that the customer base in those areas appreciates an artisanal approach, even when it comes to pizza. Chains haven’t made great strides in our area because people appreciate an artisanal-style meal.”
Although he was the “new guy on the block,” DiFabio said that Freitag and Guarnaschelli, both veterans of food television and Food Network, embraced him, and deferred to his pizza expertise on occasion. The two women disagreed with him on occasion, but he noted that he formed a rapport with the cast and crew almost immediately and was never fearful to disagree with the regular judges.
“They gave me enough respect to where I never felt like I was in the back seat. They treated me like an equal, there was never a problem at all,” he said. “Ted Allen, [the host] is a big jokester and we talked about even personal issues. I’ve stayed close to a few people from the show and would welcome the opportunity to return.”