FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The hit Food Network show “Chopped” will get a taste of Fairfield County Sunday night as celebrity chef Bruno DiFabio, owner of Pinocchio Pizza in Wilton and New Canaan, joins the program as a guest judge.
DiFabio — a Ridgefield resident who owns 10 artisanal pizzerias throughout the country — will preside alongside regular judges Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli in a special pizza-themed episode airing Sunday at 9 p.m.
“It’s something of a crowning achievement because pizza is not that big of a feature in the culinary scene, so for Food Network’s most popular show to want to have me, it’s a pretty big achievement,” said DiFabio a six-time World Pizza Champion.
During the competition, four world-renowned chefs competed against one another to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert using mystery baskets, each containing four secret ingredients that must be used.
For Sunday's "Pizza Perfect" episode, pizza dough — hand made by DiFabio — was a featured item in each of the baskets. The chefs had to fight the inclination to make a basic pizza, and instead were forced to use the pizza dough in creative ways under an extreme time crunch.
“There were some ingredients that were used that I would never, ever, use in my style of cooking,” said DiFabio. “We knew for weeks what the ingredients were, so I took the opportunity to cook those ingredients myself, only with time on my side. You really have to put yourself out there to be on the show. There were some ingredients in there that I was surprised came out really tasty.”
DiFabio may have been the “new guy on the block,” but he said Freitag and Guarnaschelli— both veterans of food television and Food Network— embraced him and deferred to his pizza expertise on occasion. Although the two women disagreed with him from time to time, he said he formed a rapport with the cast and crew almost immediately and was never afraid to express a different opinion.
“They gave me enough respect to where I never felt like I was in the back seat. They treated me like an equal— there was never a problem at all,” DiFabio said. “Ted Allen, [the host] is a big jokester and we talked about even personal issues. I’ve stayed close to a few people from the show and would welcome the opportunity to return.”