Virginia Willis Blog

BIG NEWS! I’m going to be on Chopped!


I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a chef-testant on Food Network’s  cooking competition show Chopped!! The episode premiers on November 27 at 10 pm EST/9 pm CT.  I am sooo excited. It was a fantastic experience — and really, really hard! No kidding, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Take a moment and noodle on that for a second.

I started college when I was 16. I’ve worked for Martha Stewart, Anne Willan, Nora Pouillon, and Nathalie Dupree. I trained under French chefs in DC and in France. I worked in a 2 star Michelin kitchen where we cleaned the kitchen with rubbing alcohol on Saturday nights after 150 covers, just for kicks and giggles. I’ve slept on the dining room floor of a restaurant where I cooked between day and nighttime shifts because I was so exhausted. I’m a very hard worker — and yet, being a guest on Chopped was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was seriously intense.

“Chopped” is a top-rated competition cooking show that focuses on skill, speed, creativity, and execution. Chefs are challenged to create dishes that showcase their passion, cooking style, and culinary talent, all within a 30 minute deadline. The catch? We had to use mystery ingredients pulled out of a basket just seconds before we started cooking. In the past, contestants have pulled out items such as animal crackers, octopus, yucca, rice cakes, and Gummi Bears.

Believe me, I was wishing for gummi bears. You will not believe what we had to cook. Check out the press release to read more about it!

Of course, I can’t share anything I cooked on the show. In honor of weird, strange ingredients I’m going to share a recipe for one of the more normal things I can think of — Tomato Soup!

Remember to mark your calendars and save the date!
Watch Tuesday 11/27 at 10 pm  on Food Network!
Make sure to tune in and see if I survive the Chopping Block!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Mexican Tomato Soup

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Mexican Tomato Soup

Well, it's not really a super normal recipe - it's a Mexican version. The key here is charring the tomatoes. Normally I would never suggest cooking fresh tomatoes out of season, but charring them really transforms their flavor.


2 medium Roma tomatoes, cored
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, CHOPPED
2 garlic cloves
1 quart reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 green onions, CHOPPED
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup CHOPPED fresh cilantro
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat 2 minutes until it's nuclear hot. Add the tomatoes, and cook, turning occasionally, 10 minutes or until charred on all sides. Transfer to a food processor.
  2. Let the skillet cool down just a little. Add the oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the whole (not CHOPPED!) garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer onion mixture to food processor with tomatoes; process until smooth.
  3. Transfer the tomato mixture to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in broth and tomato juice. Add bay leaf, cumin, coriander, and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in green onions, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into warmed bowls and enjoy!

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2012 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, LLC.

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35 Responses to “BIG NEWS! I’m going to be on Chopped!”

  1. I used to be suggested this blog by way of my cousin. I’m
    now not certain whether this post is written by means of him as
    nobody else understand such special approximately my trouble.
    You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  2. Rob Lawrence

    Congratulations, Verge…all Lawrences will all be having a little viewing, tasting, noshing party (nom nom) and watching you get creative with your baskets, on the folk’s big screen. Come join us if you’re of a mind to???

  3. I think a Chopped viewing party is a great idea!!! Saw that in a comment above. Congratulations VIrgina!!! I also heard you on XM radio recently on the Martha Stewart channel. It was wonderful helping you out at Foxfire in Greenville a few years back and since then I have enjoyed your cook book Bon Appetit Y’all time and time again.

  4. I am not a fan of “Chopped” but i’ll watch it because you are on it, Virginia. Can’t wait to see it. Bet it was fun to do.

  5. Anne Willan

    This is wonderful news, can’t wait to see you — it will be tomorrow as we are TIVO freaks. Was fascinated (and I guess not surprised) to hear how tough it was, my money is on your survival to the next round! Big hug, Anne


    From: Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises [] Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2012 12:17 PM To: Subject: [New post] BIG NEWS! I’m going to be on Chopped!

    virginiawillis posted: ” Chopped I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a chef-testant on Food Network’s cooking competition show Chopped!! The episode premiers on November 27 at 10 pm EST/9 pm CT. I am sooo excited. It was a fantastic experience — and really, reall”

  6. Fabulous…simply fabulous!!! The only woman and non-restaurant person. You are a super star and best of everything!!!

  7. So excited it’s finally here!! I kept the secret so good that I actually forgot what show it was! Chopped viewing party being planned . . . <3

  8. Wow that’s so exciting, I can’t wait to watch you in action! Of course, you said I’ve been chopped but you’re just saying that right? Or were you already telling us you were chopped?

  9. I am so excited! Chopped is one of my favorite shows, you’re myfavorite chef and are great at improvising and mixing it up so it should be interesting!

  10. Oh boy, I love Chopped, never miss it, and admire you so much. This will be a great show. Can you tell us who the other chefs were and which judges? I bet that was a blast!

  11. David Galloway

    Congratulations Chef. I’ll be watching from St. Simon’s. Psyched.David

    Dr. David Alan Galloway Senior Director- Galloway Consulting *experience*results*value*

    1501 Windy Ridge Lane, Atlanta, Georgia 30339 office: 770-635-8877 cell: 404-213-7674

    “The danger in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” George Bernard Shaw

    Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2012 19:16:30 +0000 To:

  12. Claire Perez

    Wahoo!! Karen & I are planning our chopped viewing party as we speak! Xo

    Sent from my iPhone


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