NYU ‘Chopped’ champion discusses win

By Emily Harris, Staff Writer

Last Thursday, Steinhardt sophomore Andrea Galan became the first student to win the “College Challenge” on the Food Network competition “Chopped.” The show brought together four college students from all around the states to compete for the ultimate $10,000 prize.

“Chopped” is an intense show. For each round – appetizer, dinner and dessert – chefs are presented with a “mystery basket” that contains three random ingredients. The contestants have 30 minutes to cook a dish that uses those ingredients and then present it to a panel of three judges.

While this episode only aired last week, for Galan the journey to “Chopped” started last summer.

“Last summer, I was just watching Food Network a lot and not really doing anything productive,” Galan said. “I applied to the show, having no expectations of getting in or anything. A few weeks later, they contacted me and told me they were interested in doing a college edition.”

After hearing back about the potential episode, Galan was called in for an interview. Soon enough, Food Network recruited students from other schools including Northwestern University, University of Miami and Washington University.

“We started filming at 6 a.m. and wrapped up at 9 p.m., including a three hour interview at the end,” Galan said. “The first round you are so nervous, you can’t even think properly. Then after that, once all of the nerves are out, it’s fun and you get into it.”

Galan’s path to victory still had some speed bumps.

“The hardest part was the confusing pantry,” Galan said. “They didn’t show us the pantry properly, so you had no idea where anything was from the first round to the dessert round. I was having trouble finding sesame seeds and they were in the spice section, not in the nuts section. Time is of the essence on the show so looking for something even for a few seconds affected everything.”

While she may have exceptional skills in the kitchen, Galan wasn’t privately trained. Her love for cooking was embedded in her family roots. Galan says her Cuban heritage and family traditions have had a strong influence on the dishes she makes.

“In Miami, we have these farms that you go to and you pick out what pig you want,” Galan said. “It’s intense, but the Cubans have always done it. We cook the pig in this wooden box, called a caja china. So every Christmas Eve we do this and it’s definitely a tradition.”

Beyond the show, Galan says she wants to start using her talents to teach students about dining tricks and hacks.

“I want to do a YouTube channel of things college students can make that are easy and affordable because it’s rough out there, especially in the city,” Galan said.

From Spanish tortillas with potatoes and eggs to vegan Peruvian sauces, Galan knows her stuff. Her knowledge of the food industry reflected not only in her lavish dinner spreads, but also in her studies. Majoring in  Media, Culture and Communications, Galan’s interest in food ranges from how photos of food look on instagram to what media in general means to the food industry  This passion and interest, as reflected in her TV appearance on “Chopped,” is definitely not stopping any time soon. Galan has already applied to other food shows in hopes of landing another cool opportunity.

“I would love to pursue something in the entertainment industry, especially dealing with food. Because ten years ago, food wasn’t what it is now,” Galan said. “There weren’t ‘foodies’ or people using chemistry to put together dishes or food trucks. Food just keeps evolving. Especially with food trends — coconut oil, cookie butter, kale — it is so interesting how the media influences the food industry.”
Email Emily Harris at [email protected]