Melissa Chaiken, chef and co-owner of Fiddlehead Restaurant in Bangor, will appear on an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped,” airing on Tuesday, Nov. 24.
Chaiken, who with co-owner Laura Peppard opened Fiddlehead in 2009, is one of 16 chefs competing in “Chopped: Comfort Food Feud,” a five-part tournament with a different comfort food classic featured on each episode. Chaiken competed in the macaroni and cheese challenge; the other challenges included bacon, burgers and pizza.
Chaiken said she is not the type of person to seek the spotlight, but that after a number of other offers over the years to appear on various cooking programs, she chose to take up “Chopped” on its offer as a way to promote her restaurant during an extremely difficult time for the restaurant industry.
“I usually shy away from stuff like this, but I figured it would be good press for the Fiddlehead during this stressful pandemic,” said Chaiken, who over the past 11 years has built up a stellar reputation for her creative yet down to earth cooking, drawing influences from French, Japanese, Malaysian and classic American cuisine.
Unlike most episodes of “Chopped,” which are filmed in a studio, the five-part series was filmed outdoors over the summer at Earth at Hidden Pond, a restaurant in Kennebunkport, in order to maintain pandemic safety protocols. Otherwise, it’s a typical “Chopped” episode: three rounds featuring an appetizer, entree and dessert, with each chef receiving a basket containing four mystery ingredients. They are given 30 minutes to create each dish. After each course, one contestant gets “chopped” until only the winner is left.
The final episode will feature the winners of each challenge. The winner of the overall tournament will receive $25,000 — quite a bit more than the $10,000 a chef wins on a traditional “Chopped” episode.
Chaiken is the only Maine chef to appear on the Maine-shot episode. Other New England chefs include Danny Rassi, chef and co-owner of Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers and FIRE by Wicked Fresh, a pizza restaurant, both in North Conway, New Hampshire.
Chaiken’s episode is set to air at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24, on the Food Network. The finale episode will air on Dec. 8.
“To be honest, I’m scared to watch,” Chaiken said. “But I will, eventually.”