Atlanta lesbian chefs sharpen knives on reality TV
Ria Pell, Virginia Willis both to appear on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’
Chef Ria Pell is the force behind the iconic Ria’s Bluebird and also, in more recent years, Sauced on Edgewood Avenue. The tattooed cook named GA Voice’s Best Chef in 2011, Pell is taking her talents into the kitchen of “Chopped,” the popular Food Network show hosted by former “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” star Ted Allen.
The gimmick that sets this show apart is that the chefs are given mystery baskets filled with anything from chicken feet to frozen french fries to duck hearts. They then have 20 minutes to come up with a creative, tasty and beautiful dish to wow the judges. Starting with four chefs, they compete in three rounds — appetizer, entrée and desert — facing an elimination after each until the winner is chosen.
Pell said she couldn’t reveal what ingredients she had to cook with — or if she won or was chopped without winning the $10,000 grand prize — before the episode airs Nov. 20.
“I had to sign an arms-length confidentiality agreement,” Pell explains.
The show was filmed in one day in February in New York after a casting call in Atlanta.
On Nov. 27, another famous gay Atlanta chef, Virginia Willis, appears on “Chopped.” Willis is author of the acclaimed cookbook, “Bon Appétit, Y’all! Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking” as well as the popular “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company.”
Cooking on hyperdrive
While Pell can’t comment on what mystery ingredients she was forced to cook, she can say one thing is for sure: the speed and urgency you see on TV is exactly what it is like in the “Chopped” kitchen.
“It was fast and furious,” Pell says. “It was like I was on a spaceship on hyperdrive. I really was like, ‘Oh, my god.’ It’s really as stressful as you see on TV. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.” Ted Allen was the perfect host, Pell says. “He’s so awesome. He’s very handsome and had good shoes. He was a complete professional. He is clever and smart and handsome,” Pell coos.
Pell says she tried to prepare for the show by watching hours and hours of “Chopped” to see all the different kinds of ingredients that are thrown at the chefs. ‘Chopped’ party at Sauced Tuesday, Nov. 20 Party starts at 8 p.m., Show airs at 10 p.m. $20 includes meals and cocktails 753 Edgewood Ave., Atlanta, GA 30307 www.saucedatlanta.com
“I watched the show non-stop, doing my homework. I was just ready for them to put Beluga whale on the table,” Pell says, laughing.
She wanted to compete for the money and to bring good publicity to Sauced. All the chefs she competed against were very nice because in the end they all want the same thing.
“We’re all cooks so we’re all on kind of the same team,” Pell says.
Excited and flattered to be on the show, Pell is throwing a party for everyone to come and watch her.
The outdoor party on Nov. 20 at Sauced will include tasty bites from her restaurant as well as from chefs from local restaurants The Spotted Trotter, Fox Brother’s BBQ, Palookaville, Rathbun’s, Proof and Provision, and Taria Camerino of The Optimist. Tiffanie Barriere, who worked her mixologist magic for Barack Obama when he was in Atlanta, will serve up liquid goodness at the party as well. DJs Osmose and Ree de la Vega spin.
“We roll with a good community of chefs,” Pell says. “I love throwing a party. I’m not one who toots her own horn, but I’m really flattered I can share this.”
Of course, Pell has no idea what will be shown on the small screen and whether she will “make a buffoon” of herself or come off as cool and slick as she is in her own kitchens, she says.
“All in all, I hope I don’t throw up,” she jokes.
Atlanta chef Ria Pell appears on the Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Nov. 20. (Publicity photo)