Northeast Philly-based traveling chef Christine Hazel is the latest local chef to win an episode of Food Network's competition series Chopped.
Oct. 2's show, whose judges were Martha Stewart, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Geoffrey Zakarian, was a Halloween-themer titled "Haunted Hijinx."
The four contestants' bizarre ingredient baskets included jack-o'-lantern-carved peppers filled with mac and cheese, meatballs decorated like rats, and a cocktail garnished with an lichi "eyeball," dubbed an eye-itini.
Hazel specializes in pop-up dinners featuring six-course tasting menus, so, she said, the show's freewheeling style suited her.
Hazel, 35, has been a pro chef for only seven years. "I changed careers a few times," she said. "I was driven, but not finding my passion."
At 28, she enrolled at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. In 2015, having never had a pro kitchen job, she competed on Season 14 of Hell's Kitchen, finishing ninth out of 18. "That was eye-opening," she said. "I thought it would give me a leg up on people." The experience, she said, was a learning experience.
It also was a test in silence: She had to keep quiet for about two years between the filming and announcement of the episode.