Florida chef wins ‘Chopped’ competition

Florida. Ciarán McGoldrick, who operates Glenmere Farm, participated in The Food Network show on December 26, winning the grand prize of $10,000.

| 01 Jan 2024 | 02:55

We have a winner among us! On Tuesday, December 26, local chef and operator of Glenmere Farm in Florida, Ciarán McGoldrick, showed off his culinary skills as part of The Food Network reality show “Chopped.” In the show, four chefs compete for a chance to win $10,000. The competition includes three rounds – the appetizer round, the entrée round, and the dessert round – using mystery ingredients that aim to challenge the competitors’ ability to whip up a meal on the spot. A panel of judges evaluates each meal, and eliminates one player for each round, until one chefs remains.

McGoldrick, 29, holds a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences from The Pennsylvania State University and attended The Culinary Institute of America. He worked in restaurants in Manhattan as well as Newburgh before establishing Glenmere Farm in 2020 with his partner Dan, who McGoldrick described as an integral part of his success.

While a relative newcomer to the area, McGoldrick recalled visiting Warwick’s apple orchards as a child with his sister and parents. But it was partly the pandemic that inspired his permanent move.

“The pandemic was such a terrible time for everyone, especially hospitality workers. In March 2020, I was laid off from the restaurant I was working at and needed to pick a direction to pivot to. People couldn’t go out to eat anymore but didn’t want to give up on the dining experience entirely, so I began offering private chef experiences in guests’ homes. The struggles of the pandemic pushed me to take a leap of faith and to venture out on my own. Warwick is such a beautiful part of Orange County, and when combined with its rich agricultural history and abundance of local, sustainable ingredients, settling here was a no brainer!”

Since making the move, McGoldrick says he’s found a welcoming community here. “Food is something that connects us all, and it’s allowed us to form incredible relationships within the community. We’re so excited to continue to provide unique and delicious dining experiences to our clients and guests.”

McGoldrick describes Glenmere Farm, located at 225 Glenmere Avenue, as a 30-acre “culinary sanctuary” whereby he can grow and test new ingredient varietals, and showcase his “commitment to sustainability and innovation.”

But how did this young chef make it to Prime Time? As we’ve seen with other Food Network contestants, it’s all about Instagram. McGoldrick said a casting agent for the show reached out to him via his Instagram account (@ciaran.cooks), where he highlights many of his chef creations. From there, he simply had to provide a resume, answer a few questionnaires and make it through several taped interviews. “It’s definitely a tough process to make it from application onto the big screen.”

Unlike some cooking shows, “Chopped” tries to trick its contestants with mystery ingredient baskets, which can include anything from hard candies to bull testicles.

“I had originally planned to do ‘mock mystery baskets’ and have my partner Dan select the most random ingredients he could find and do a timed run-through at home. In the end it didn’t make sense as there are so many variables between home and the ‘Chopped’ kitchen. In the end we’d watch two or three ‘Chopped’ episodes a night, and when the basket was revealed, we’d pause the screen and I’d have 10 seconds to think of a composed dish — it worked great! In the end, though, the best preparation was being confident in my experience and relying on my professional training,”

For fans of the show, McGoldrick confirmed that, yes, the “Chopped” kitchen is just as intense, if not more so, as it seems on TV. “It really is as down to the wire as they make it appear,” said McGoldrick. “The heat of the kitchen, intense lighting, camera crews... add an entire layer of pressure to an already overwhelming environment.”

McGoldrick said he was proud of all the dishes he created for the show, but admitted that his standout dish was the dessert, which is not usually his specialty. “Making ice cream in the ‘Chopped’ kitchen is always a huge risk; that, more often than not, is the kiss of death for most competitors... To have the ice cream turn out perfectly, and have the judges enjoy it as much as they did, was the highlight of the entire competition.”

McGoldrick plans to use his winnings to further invest in his events business. “We’re in constant need of newer, better equipment. This will help us reinvest into our efforts, and ultimately lead to a better dining experience for our guests.”

He added, “I grew up watching this show and never in a million years thought I’d make it on. Winning was the purest form of joy and recognition I could have ever asked for.”

So what’s next for this local entrepreneur? Glenmere Farm recently partnered with Jayne Street Distilling Co. in Florida to offer a pop-up dinner series that will be open to the public starting in February. They also plan to offer a farm dinner series later in the 2024. (Visit glenmerefarm.com for more information.)

McGoldrick expressed gratitude for all of the previous guests and clients who have enjoyed his culinary delights, and particularly thanked chefs Dan Barber of Stone Barns and Melissa Kelly of Primo for their “commitment to highlighting and raising local, seasonal ingredients.” He also noted his “unwavering love” for the Hudson Valley. “Its people, farmers, artists, producers, and all those that make Orange County great. I’ve chosen to make it my lifelong home for a reason.”