BY HANNAH FRISHBERG
Tuesday, Nov. 28, was a big day for Astoria chef Nick Testa – he won Episode 14 of this season’s Food Network show “Chopped.”
Testa is head chef at neighborhood joints Sweet Afton (30-09 34th St.) and The Bonnie (29-12 23rd Ave.), both local gastropubs known for having upscale pub fare. “Chopped,” which challenges cooks to create meals from unwieldy ingredients, had a Weird Twist theme when the local chef competed, and Testa rose to the occasion with a series of bizarre dishes.
First up, for the entree challenge, Testa made a classic Asian vermicelli salad with dressing with untraditional ingredients, namely black rice ramen, pig’s head terrine and conehead cabbage.
Next up, for the second course, Testa managed to make a classic Italian sausage and peppers from stuffed lamb intestines, garlic ice cream and red runner bean blooms.
Lastly, for the final dessert round, Testa was given sweet avocado, dried ants, Szechuan peppercorn buds and tang yuan (a tart, Japanese starch with a nut in the middle) to work with. From that he made an ice cream sundae, but the peppercorns tripped him up a bit.
“I ate a half of one on set and it was tongue-numbing,” he recalls of the tasteless initial experience with the peppercorn buds.
Since the show aired on Nov. 28, Testa says a number of people have dropped by to the two bars to try his cooking, even if it’s not nearly as outrageous as the dishes he whipped up on “Chopped.” The Bonnie’s Instagram account also saw an influx of over 600 likes for a photo announcing Testa’s big win.
Despite telling a competitor there was no way he would cry if he won, Testa reports that he “bawled” upon hearing the news. As for his $10,000 winnings, Testa plans to “put it away, let it grow somewhere.” One day, he hopes to open a restaurant beyond the city, and the cash could help fund that dream.
For now though, you can find him cooking up quality bites at Sweet Afton and The Bonnie. As for whether or not he’ll incorporate dried ants and lamb intestine into his off-show creations, Testa said, “Not likely!” However, “Avocado ice cream will be something I’ll be putting on the menu in the future.”