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Paso Robles chef competes on new Food Network show: ‘An absolute dream come true’

A Paso Robles chef showed off her cooking chops on a new Food Network reality show.

Rachel Ponce appeared on “Chopped: Julia Child’s Kitchen,” a 16-chef, five-part tournament celebrating Child’s “legacy of culinary excellence,” on Tuesday.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am to have made it on the show,” Ponce wrote in an Instagram post on Nov. 16. “Competing alongside some of the most talented chefs and culinary enthusiasts has been an absolute dream come true.”

Ponce was the first of the the four chefs to have her entry “chopped” in her round when the judges felt her fish cake appetizer was too dense and didn’t sufficiently embrace the assignment, which was to create a dish inspired by Child’s seafood bouillabaisse.

“I feel good. I’m super proud of myself,” Ponce said upon learning of her elimination. “And this was such an honor to just celebrate Julia Child.”

Who is Paso Robles chef?

Ponce, who specializes in food-and-beverage pairings, is the executive chef and owner of Paso Robles catering company Pair with Chef Rachel.

She’s also a recipe developer for Edible San Luis Obispo magazine.

As of March, her restaurant Frunchroom — described as a Chicago-inspired deli and general store — was under construction at 3330 Ramada Drive in Paso Robles with plans to open in late 2023.

Chef Rachel Ponce teamed with Nikki and Jesse Kaltenberg to add a restaurant to Dead Oak Brewery in Atascadero. Pair with Dead Oak marries the brewery’s beers and a new selection of wines with Ponce’s culinary creations.
Chef Rachel Ponce teamed with Nikki and Jesse Kaltenberg to add a restaurant to Dead Oak Brewery in Atascadero. Pair with Dead Oak marries the brewery’s beers and a new selection of wines with Ponce’s culinary creations.

What is new Food Network cooking competion?

Hosted by Ted Allen, “Chopped” challenges chefs to turn baskets of mystery ingredients into three-course meals.

“Julia Child’s Kitchen,” which premiered Nov. 14, ups the ante by asking competitors to mesh their culinary backgrounds with Child’s famed French cuisine — using fish heads and brown butter macarons to emulate trout meunière, or making a dessert with ramen noodles and French whisky.

The show features a total of 16 chefs from across the country vying for a spot in the finale and a chance at the grand prize: a $25,000 Julia Child-themed trip to France.

“Julia Child is a true icon and culinary hero who influenced, and continues to influence, generations of cooks,” Betsy Ayala, head of food content for Warner Bros. Discovery, said in a news release. “This tournament pays homage to a legend while delivering an exciting twist on a fan-favorite series. The action is elevated by the unique challenges and ingredients deployed in her honor.”

Although Ponce didn’t disclose on Instagram how she fared on “Chopped: Julia Child’s Kitchen,” she described the experience as “filled with ... challenges and unforgettable moments.”

“Trust me when I say, it was one of the hardest things I have done,” she wrote. “The nerves are real!”