I ran down the hallway to my wife’s desk and showed her the email. The two of us shared a brief delirium of excitement before I managed to calm myself down and read the rest of the email again, I would have to wait for the next contact. Thankfully, this wait was shorter, only a couple of days, and then another producer called to schedule my video bio. I would once again have to travel to Los Angeles. The video was to consist of cooking action shots, something creative about me doing something I like to do, and an interview. All of this would take place at a client’s home and would take 4-6 hours to complete. It was scheduled two weeks after I received the email.
Leah wasn’t going to be able to make this trip, so I asked my father-in-law to go with me. We arrived a day in advance so that I could scope out the local food stores and find all of the items needed for the photo shoot. The following day we awoke to rain and overcast skies, which was disconcerting because much of the planned video shoot was planned for outdoors. After an enjoyable breakfast, prefaced by prayer, we went from store to store gathering all the different items that I would need.By the way, the producers told me that I would not be in any ordinary “Chopped” episode. My episode would be all about my successful weight loss transformation in which I lost 92 lbs, going from a 44 inch waist to a 28 inch waist. Other chefs on this episode would have similar success stories. I was particularly excited about this because I am so passionate about showing people that change real, lasting change can be accomplished at any age and no matter where your starting point is.
Since I specialize in recipe transformation, I thought I should demonstrate that ability on camera. My menu consisted of grilled, herb-roasted pork tenderloin with parmesan cream sauce (I used yellow squash to thicken the sauce instead of flour), and sautéed patty pan squash. The producers were aware that I am a natural bodybuilder, so I was asked to “workout” with weights and to do various other things to demonstrate my athleticism on camera.
Remember the rain? Well, earlier that morning my father-in-law and I had prayed for a clear day and a blessing over the filming and, just as we started to film, the rain stopped and the skies cleared! When the video bio was complete, we packed our things and headed back to Vegas in a monsoon, no less the rain had returned almost immediately after we completed filming. What a good God I serve! The drive home that normally would have taken four hours took six with all the water pouring down out of the skies. I don’t know how we could have shot the video with all of that rain, but I thank God I didn’t have to find out.
That blessing made for great conversation as we tried to stay calm driving in that nerve-frazzling storm. We agreed that it had been a very successful trip. Did I mention that two days prior to the filming, I received a call from the producers in New York telling me that my tape date had been set for December 17? The filming of my bio took place in the middle of July. At least this time, though still a long time away, I had an actual date, time, and location of where to be next.
The infamous Chopped basket, whose contents were mastered by Chef Phillip on a special weight loss episode of Chopped!
Now, I had always been a fan of Chopped, but as soon as the initial call had come in, I started watching every episode in order to gain knowledge and test my thinking abilities as each contestant opened their basket. Leah would make me tell her what I would fix as each basket was opened. It was a game, but it was also training. Every time we were driving down the road or simply relaxing with each other, Leah would call out a course (appetizer, for instance) and a list of ingredients some of them very off the wall and I had ten seconds to create a dish and call it out. It became second nature to think up a dish on the fly no matter what was in the imaginary basket. This preparation would be very beneficial when it came time to face the real baskets on the show.
Let’s jump to December now. Our trip was only three days away when I started having serious pain below my right shoulder, around my scapula, and up into the base of my neck. Knowing I was about to get on a plane, I scheduled an appointment to see my chiropractor who had always been able to help me before. This appointment would be different. I left his office feeling worse, but I knew that happens sometimes and then, a few hours later, you feel better as your muscles relax. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time. The following day, I was in so much pain I could hardly bear it. I had numbness in my right thumb and hand, shooting pain in my neck and shoulder and wrapping down my arm to my elbow; I couldn’t grip anything. So, I called my church and asked to be placed on the prayer chain. Within minutes, I had at least twenty prayer warriors sending up fervent prayers to the Lord. Nothing was going to stop me from getting on that plane!
The day finally arrived for me and Leah to fly to New York. I was still in pain, a lot of pain, but all I could do was put my faith in God, knowing He would get me through. We were concerned for my physical state, but we were also very excited to be off on our first trip to New York, all the more so because it was December, and I had always wanted to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.
We took the red-eye flight and arrived in New York on a brisk, wintery morning. After gathering our bags and hailing a cab, we set off for our hotel. What a place! I thought. The buildings all around us were monstrous, and the traffic was chaos. It was everything I had ever seen on television and then some. Our hotel was great, and the staff was very friendly and helpful. We made ourselves at home and then took care of the first order of business we checked out the neighboring restaurants and found a great little diner around the corner.
Moments after offering up a final prayer, Chef Phillip Dell is declared Chopped Champion.
Even as I congratulated Joel on a job well-done, I knew that if his dessert had turned out as intended, the outcome might have been different. Within moments, I would hear the most sought after words on Chopped.
“And that means, Chef Phillip Dell, you are the Chopped Champion!”
My arms went up in the air, and I praised God for all He had done for me. My eyes teared up as I thanked the judges and expressed the desire in my heart letting people know they could do anything. They could change their life at any point of their life.
Shew! Talk about an awesome day. It was exhilarating to say the least. It had been over seventeen hours since I had kissed Leah goodbye, and I couldn’t wait to kiss her again. It was late and cold with a pouring rain, but I just had to have my VICTORY NEW YORK PIZZA!