When Johntay Bedingfield first applied to go on “Chopped,” he told producers that if he won, he’d use the $10,000 prize money to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend.
That was in October 2016, years before the La Food Marketa chef would actually appear on — and win — the competition show on the Food Network.
The episode featuring his win aired this week, and Bedingfield watched it at a viewing party at the Pikesville restaurant. Days later, he was still exhilarated.
“I kept saying I wanted to win for the city. I know the city gets a bad rap sometimes … but I want people to know we can compete on a national level against the bigger foodie cities that were surrounded by.”
Bedingfield competed against three other chefs in three separate challenges.
“Everything [I cooked] was kind of Marketa-y,” he said, referring to the restaurant where he works, which features American cuisine with Central and South American influences. In the first round, he made potato chip nachos. For round two, a red cabbage taco.
In round three, Bedingfield had just 30 minutes to make a dessert from four extremely random ingredients: soft pretzel dough, kumquats, beer-flavored sangria and a reuben egg roll with Russian dressing. Fortunately, the chef had a lot of experience with pretzel dough, from his previous stint at the Food Market.
“I just knew there was no way I could screw that up,” Bedingfield said.
To make his winning concoction, Bedingfield cooked down the kumquats with the sangria, and ripped the insides from the egg roll. He prepared a mascarpone cheesecake which he stuffed into the pretzels, forming an eclair-like pastry. The judges of “Chopped” were so impressed, they thought he must have a pastry background.
“No, I have a pretzel-rolling background,” he told them.
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Bedingfield no longer needs an engagement ring. He proposed to his girlfriend, Lift Yoga + Strength owner Alexa Pancza, before filming the show. Now, he thinks, he’ll use the prize money for their honeymoon.