Santa Clarita’s award-winning home chef Merry Graham has taken on her biggest challenge yet: “Chopped: Grandma’s Grand Holiday.”
Graham’s episode is scheduled to air on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the Food Network.
Graham has won numerous awards over her decades-long career. She doesn’t take winning as a final step. She uses it as a motivator to find the next big thing that she can show what she’s got.
“I always want to step up to a challenge, especially a cooking challenge,” said Graham, “and it’s scary as heck, but at the same time, there’s this motivation within that just wants to push through to the final line.”
Graham competed on “Chopped” many years ago, but this one was a little more special for her.
Her love and history for cooking stemmed from her Grandma Pearl. Grandma Pearl would make apple pies and persimmon cookies during Christmas time.
Graham remembers the smell and taste of them fondly.
She continues to make Pearl’s recipes and honor her legacy, now with her own title as grandma.
“It just hit me recently, I went, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m a grandma now. I make the things my childhood memories are made up of,” said Graham. “To step into her apron and think, ‘I’m that woman that I used to totally admire.’”
Signing up for “Chopped” satisfied her need for a challenge. Signing up for the Grandma’s Grand Holiday special was a way to express her love for cooking with that full-circle title of grandma.
The holiday aspect was also a nice touch, too, as her name is “Merry.”
The “Chopped” special will feature Graham and three other grandmas working against the clock and the items in their baskets to make a holiday feast.
“There’s just so much going on at the moment,” said Graham. “It was the most intense cooking competition I’ve ever been in.”
In the traditional “Chopped” format, contestants go through three rounds, one chef being eliminated each round – appetizer, entrée and dessert – and each round features four unknown items in a basket that the contestants have to use in their dish.
“I’m really glad I didn’t practice because I would have never thought that we would receive the ingredients that were in the basket,” said Graham. “I had to be creative. I had to combine things I have absolutely never combined before.”
“They didn’t take it easy on the grandmas at all.”
The results of Graham’s efforts will not be available until after the Tuesday showing. Win or lose, being on “Chopped” is something she will always hold near to her heart.
“The whole experience for me is something I can be proud of, because it’s something I’ve always wanted,” said Graham.
More of Graham’s award-winning recipes can be found at bit.ly/3AgDtr3 and her grilled recipes at bit.ly/3QG9huL.