At­lanta les­bian chefs sharpen knives on re­al­ity TV

Ria Pell, Vir­ginia Wil­lis both to ap­pear on Food Net­work’s ‘Chopped’

GA Voice - - A & E -

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)

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