Michele Hunter has been cooking her whole life and has culinary in her blood.
“[My] parents owned a restaurant [called] American-Italian my whole life. I went to culinary school and I’ve never done anything else,” said Hunter.
For the last two years, she has been the executive chef at Hamlet and Ghost. A year ago, owner Brendon Dillon got a phone call that would put Hunter’s culinary skills to the test on a national stage.
“And [they] said, 'Hey we would be interested in Michele,'” Dillon said. “And I kind of put the phone on mute for a second and walked back and said, 'Michele, 'Chopped' is on the phone.'”
Producers of the Food Network’s "Chopped" wanted Hunter on the show; she was interested and started the application process. A few weeks later, Hunter was in New York City taping the episode.
“Of course, like in the beginning, you have some confidence and you think you’re ready and you’re there, and it’s just all stress,” said Hunter.
She went up against three other chefs and had to use mystery ingredients in each dish to advance to the next round. Nearly a year after taping the episode, it finally aired Tuesday night. A watch party was held at the restaurant.
“You definitely learn how to think outside the box and it’s definitely a big challenge,” said Hunter.
She got off to a strong start in the appetizer round. Hunter then struggled in the entree round but survived. In the final round, Hunter thrived with the dessert and won over the judges to claim the "Chopped" champion title and $10,000.