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Local chef Kelly Wangard wins Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen 

Cutthroat Kitchen Chef Kelly Wangard

Chef Kelly Wangard

SummerWood Winery & Inn Executive Chef Kelly Wangard was the champion of this week’s popular Cutthroat Kitchen television show, which aired on the Food Network on Sunday. Wangard’s lively episode, “The Undertater”, included challenges in which she prepared a stuffed baked potato and cooked Korean short ribs.

The final challenge found chef Wangard sabotaged, playing a memory game to retrieve needed ingredients to prepare her award-winning blueberry turnover, all while handcuffed. Throughout the competition, she was sabotaged five times. Her final winnings totaled $6,900.

Cutthroat Kitchen is a reality cooking show hosted by celebrity Alton Brown. Each episode of Cutthroat Kitchen features four chefs faced with three cooking challenges. At the beginning of the challenge each chef is given $25,000, which can be used to sabotage their opponents and/or use to bid on ingredients to assist in the competition.

Each challenge gives the chefs a dish to create, with one minute to retrieve their ingredients from the pantry. The contestants are then given 30 minutes to prepare their dish to the highest culinary standard. Upon completion, a guest judge evaluates each dish and the chef with the worst dish is eliminated.

Wangard, learned of the opportunity after receiving a Facebook message from the show’s casting director, who was searching for a female executive chef. A quick telephone conversation and Skype interview followed, with Wangard learning she had been selected within a week of the initial contact.

To prepare for the show, she practiced perfecting simple dishes in a short amount of time, and also brushed up on her baking skills. “It was by far the most challenging, stressful and hilarious cooking experience I’ve ever had!” she said. “The show has a ton of staff and it seemed to be a well-oiled machine. I was very impressed with the professionalism and how they were able to produce 5-6 shows a week.”

Wangard joined SummerWood Winery & Inn in 2009 as the property’s executive chef, taking on the additional duties of Inn Manager in 2012. Raised in Paso Robles, Wangard trained at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco where she was awarded the prestigious Carlisle Walker Award and graduated at the top of her class. While at the California Culinary Academy, she also worked at Fleur de Lys for Hubert Keller, who she credits in mentoring her in the high standards, daily operations and the importance of consistency in quality in culinary endeavors.

Wangard’s culinary experience also includes the Kimpton Hotel Group, the Caneel Bay Resort in the Caribbean, American Club in Kohler, WI and the Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. A move back to the Central Coast led Chef Kelly to the Paso Robles Inn prior to joining SummerWood Winery & Inn. She lives in Paso Robles with her husband, chef Gregg Wangard, and their two children.

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.