NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL-TV) – For months, 16-year-old NOCCA junior Eliana de Las Casas had to keep a secret. She was the winner of the Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Teen Tournament, but part of the deal is you have to keep your result secret until the show airs.
Tuesday night, it finally did air, and Eliana took home the $25,000 first prize and the bragging rights that come with it.
Sixteen talented culinary whizzes from around the country were chosen for the tournament in which you have to prepare a dish from a (usually) bizarre set of ingredients for an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The loser each round is ‘Chopped’ and the last one standing is the winner.
Eliana won her preliminary round and then faced the other three champions.
“Being on Chopped Teen Tournament was one of the scariest and most exciting moments of my culinary career,” Eliana told NOCCA. “Although the contestants competed against each other, we all became friends and still keep in touch. I value the experience and I hope kids and families are inspired to be adventurous in the kitchen.”
Despite her young age, Eliana is already an accomplished chef with major league goals. She has her own line of spices (something she told the Food Network she planned on starting with part of her winnings), a radio cooking show on 102.3 WHIV FM in New Orleans, has published three cookbooks and has appeared on stage with several renowned chefs, including New Orleans’ own John Besh.
Eliana’s win was finally claimed on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning she was on the Eyewitness Morning News whipping up blackened chicken tacos and wowing the Morning Show anchors with her wisdom beyond her years.
Among the six dishes she had to cook to eventually win ‘Chopped,’ Eliana harkened to her Filipino roots and her New Orleans background, cooking things like Filipino egg rolls, fried okra and a Filipino dessert including mangoes.
“It’s just so many different, like, emotions are running through, like, overwhelmed, excited and happy,” she told Food Network about her victory. “It’s just amazing.”