Foodie Alvin Zhou ’17SEAS Competes on the Food Network’s Chopped

Alvin Zhou

Columbia Engineering student Alvin Zhou, a junior studying operations research, recently competed in an episode of Chopped on the Food Network which aired Tuesday, March 15. The long-running series pits chefs against one another to cook appetizers, entrées, and desserts that must include some unorthodox ingredients, and after each round of just 60 minutes a contestant is "chopped" from the competition.

In the first round, four contestants had to fashion tasty appetizers out of chicken breast, pre-cooked rice and beans, tomato sauce, and an energy drink. Zhou was on track with an open-faced chicken slider, combining the rice and beans with egg for a makeshift bun and incorporating the energy drink into a sauce. Surviving the appetizer round, Zhou and the remaining two competitors were challenged to make entrées out of skirt steak, frozen macaroni and cheese, coffee, and Brussels sprouts. Zhou made a traditional garlic and rosemary skirt steak with glazed Brussels sprouts and bacon. He was confident with his dish the second time around but, alas, his steak dried out in the long studio delay before judging, and he was chopped before the dessert round.

Zhou, who is good friends with the winner, Jenn Cheng of NYU, notes that the food is “definitely cold” by the time judges eat it and that several cameras are trained on each contestant at all times to capture every moment.

“My heart was pounding from the moment I woke up that day until the moment I was chopped,” Zhou said. “It was really tough!”

The California native, who started cooking in earnest after a botched attempt at baking cookies in high school, has become a culinary viral sensation. Ever since a friend at Columbia lent him a camera to play with, Zhou has been making food videos for Buzzfeed and a variety of clients. From mouthwatering photography to tutorials on how to make BBQ chicken pizza dippers and the magic chocolate ball, the content that Zhou has produced, cooked, shot, and edited has garnered well over 2.6 billion views and 50 million shares on Facebook.

Zhou, who said New York’s boundless cultural diversity is among the best things about Columbia, applied for the long-running Chopped series after much prodding from friends. He was selected for the college edition, and competed over a 12-hour day at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea.

—by Jesse Adams

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