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Duck for Dinner
Season 9, Episode 16
DFD Chefs.png
Air date December 13, 2011
Winner Neela Paniz
Episode Guide
Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Lobster!
The Big Scoop

The judges are pleased to see duck confit, a heavenly food, in the first basket. But in just twenty minutes, will the competitors be able to pull off divine appetizer dishes? In the entrée round, a trend with the mystery ingredient emerges. Then, each determined to claim the $10,000 prize, the two finalists face off in the dessert round. And one lucky duck takes it.


  • Megan Johnson, Executive Chef, Elsewhere / Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, New York, NY
  • Al Nappo, Executive Chef, Founding Farmers, Georgetown, DC
  • Neela Paniz, Chef and Restaurateur, Neela's, Napa, CA
  • Larry Baldwin, Executive Chef, David Burke Fromagerie, Rumson, NJ




Ingredients: Duck Confit, Red Cherry Peppers, Frozen Naan, Vanilla Beans

Megan prepared Duck Rillette with Vanilla & Cherry Pepper Jam. The presentation is elegant, and the idea of a rillette accompanied with a jam is fantastic. The complaint is that the rillette doesn't have the richness that one desires in a rillette.

Al made Arugula Salad w/ Pickled Peppers & Raspberries. The approach to the dish is very "1980's", but in Al's case, he is able to make it taste good. The tomato in the salad is completely superfluous and the salad itself could be more composed.

Neela prepared Cherry Pepper & Duck Confit Masala w/ Naan Crostini and Vanilla Raita. Neela's plate is probably the ugliest of the four, but it is certainly the tastiest, with great flavor development for 20 minutes.

Larry prepared Duck Confit Salad with Pickled Cherry Peppers and Vanilla-Scented Naan. The judges like the addition of radicchio to the salad, and the vanilla on the naan is a great idea. The salad is kind of disjointed and something that would be ordered at a fast casual restaurant.

Everyone does quite well for the first round, but the dish put out by Chef Larry isn't cohesive and as a result the weakest of the four.


Ingredients: Duck Breast, Champagne Mango, Morel Mushrooms, Ranch Dressing

Al made Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Home Fries and Mango Ranch Sauce. The duck breast is cooked perfectly, although a large amount of blood from it on the plate. The judges have mixed feelings about his sauce, saying that it probably wouldn't be a potential menu item, but it isn't nearly as bad as they thought it would be.

Neela prepared Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Ranch Morel Kitchery and Mango Chutney. For her first time cooking duck breast, she cooks it perfectly, although there is a lot of blood. The rice in the kitchery is undercooked, and the kitchery ends up a mushy mess that drags the whole dish down.

Megan did Pan-Seared Duck Breast on Radicchio Mango Salad with Mushroom Purée. The flavors of the salad and the purée are both delicious, but they don't come together. The duck is undercooked.

All three chefs struggled in the entrée round, but the one who did not overcome those struggles is Chef Megan, who served extremely undercooked duck and three other ingredients that were disjointed.


Ingredients: Chocolate Chips, Chestnuts, Dried Strawberries, Duck Eggs

Neela made Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Sauce. The judges like the texture of the mousse, and the juxtaposition of the strawberries and chocolate is great. The mousse is cloyingly sweet, although the strawberry sauce still shows the brilliance of Neela's style.

Al made Chestnut Purée with Chocolate Sabayon. Al's dessert is the high point of his meal, which expresses his good-time mentality and the energy put forward in the kitchen. His combinations and balances of flavors are great, and his toast point was a smart move.

Looking at the whole meal, the judges chop Chef Al for the tomatoes in his salad and for how his mango ranch sauce turned out, although they stress that it was a true pleasure having him in the kitchen. Neela is made Chopped Champion.



Chopped Season 9
<< Season 8Season 10 >>
#01 Champions' Tournament: Part 1#09 Make A Splash!
#02 Champions' Tournament: Part 2#10 One in a Hundred
#03 Champions' Tournament: Part 3#11 Blood Orange Sorbet, Sweat, & Tears
#04 Champions' Tournament: Part 4#12 Give It Your All
#05 Champions' Tournament: Grand Finale#13 Class Acts
#06 Time & Space#14 Yakety Yak, Yak, Yak
#07 Everything's Rosy#15 Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Lobster!
#08 Trick or Treat, Chicken Feet!#16 Duck for Dinner