Sarah Wade wasn't born in New England, but that didn't stop her from bringing a Patriots mindset to the "Chopped: Gold Medal Games" grand finale.
Channeling Bill Belichick's "do your job" mantra, the Oklahoma native and executive chef at Lulu's Allston tells Metro that she wanted to keep a cool, focused mentality going into the final round of the tournament, which airs Jan. 30 at 10 p.m. on the Food Network. Rather than get caught up in any smack talk in the "Chopped" kitchen, she decided to keep her head down and let her skill as a chef speak for itself.
"Going into the finale, I was like, 'I’m out for blood. I’m out to win it all,'" says Wade. "I just went in with the mentality of be cool, tuck my head and do your thing."
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While fans will have to wait until Tuesday night to see if Wade ends up taking home the $50,000 prize, she's already proven herself as a worthy competitor on the show. Wade had an impressive performance in the opening round of the tournament, easily winning the fry-themed episode to earn her spot in the grand finale.
The Boston chef impressed the judges by bringing her southern comfort style to far-out-there basket ingredients like alligator, lotus root, haggis in a can and matcha powder.
"Of course you go to win, but when I actually won I was like, 'Holy s--t,'" Wade says. "It was an amazing experience. Tough, definitely, but man was it satisfying to win that first round."
Wade, who likes to rely on her midwestern roots when she's in the kitchen, believes that the key to frying is to know how your products will react to the process. For instance, vegetables work better with lighter, tempura-style batters, as opposed to the heavy crust that's used to make fried chicken.
"When it comes to frying, you have to know the product," Wade says. "Some have to be fried hot and fast, otherwise they’re going to get tough. Some you can actually go a little bit slower and longer, like a softer meat."
Prior to shipping up to the Hub, the Oklahoma State University graduate got her first job in the business as a banquet chef at a Houston hotel. After bouncing around North Carolina and Texas, she worked at a Hyatt in Connecticut before making the move to Boston.
Wade had a choice between going to New York or taking the job at Lulu's – which she found on Craigslist – and admits that coming to the Bay State to cook what she loves was the best decision of her life.
"It definitely was a better fit for me," Wade says. "I packed my stuff in Connecticut and drove up to Boston. It’s my best decision to date."