Talented Houston-area chef wins top spot on Chopped with exquisitely crafted Indian fare
Another Houston-area chef has joined the roster of local Chopped champions. Jassi Bindra, the chef and partner of Indian fine dining restaurant Amrina in The Woodlands, won the episode titled “Oh My Squash” that first aired on Tuesday, August 15.
Bindra tells CultureMap that the show’s casting team initially reached out to him via Instagram. After an audition, they offered him a spot on the show.
“What made me choose this is I think it’s a great platform for competing, I wanted to challenge myself,” he says. “It’s a platform to represent my talent and my cuisine on the show.”
In the episode, he competed against Morgan Ferguson, a private chef in Maryland; Emilie Rose Bishop, a chef from Massachusetts; and Rachel McGill, a James Beard Award semifinalist from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Faced with an appetizer basket that consisted of brick French toast, spicy peanut butter, watermelon radish, and sardines, Bindra puts his spin on a Mirchi Wala, an Indian stuffed pepper filled with a mix of mushrooms and sardines. Although the judges criticized Bindra’s dish for being too large, they chopped Ferguson for his poorly-executed panzanella salad.
Bindra hit his stride in the entree round, turning a basket of potato chip omelet, pea greens, Korean style short ribs, and cherry cola into grilled short ribs with wilted Brussels sprouts and pea green salad, a cherry cola and coconut sauce, and an egg mousse.
“Really delicious,” judge Eric Adjepong raved. I loved the way you treated the pea greens. They’re cooked. They still have bite to it. The short ribs . . . have a beautiful char on the outside.”
The judges chopped Bishop for her poorly executed short rib taco. Bindra says he took the feedback he received in round one and applied it to his entree.
“I heard the judges say focus on timing. I heard what they were saying and focused on my dishes,” he says. Also, he knew he had to execute a beef challenge properly. “I have to go back to Texas. I cannot mess up my meat.”
For the dessert round, Bindra prepared a dish that utilized a giant fortune cookie, blue hubbard squash, gooseberries, and camel milk. He prepared a rabri, an Indian dish made with sweetened condensed milk paired with candied squash and gooseberries.
“Rabri takes hours to cook,” judge Maneet Chauhan tells Bindra. “I don’t know how you managed to do this, but this is absolutely delicious. The rabri is spot on.”
To create some drama, the judges note that the candied squash didn’t add much to the dish. Still, they ultimately round his overall effort stronger than McGill’s, whose squash custard didn’t set properly.
Winning brings a sense of accomplishment and a $10,000 prize. Bindra says he intends to donate some of the winnings to the Make A Wish Foundation. The rest will be allocated to purchasing more kitchen tools, expanding his palate by dining out, and a celebratory dinner with friends. Ultimately, he thinks he stood above his competitors for a number of reasons.
“I wanted to showcase my style,” he says. “My techniques were unique, and I brought them to the ingredients I was given.”