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Merry Graham takes home the title ‘Chopped’ champion

Photo courtesy of Food Network.
Photo courtesy of Food Network.

After an appetizer, entrée and a dessert, local home chef Merry Graham took home the title of “Chopped” champion for the show’s “Grandma’s Grand Holiday” episode.  

“Grandmas are the heart of the holidays,” said Graham on “Chopped.” 

In Graham’s episode of “Chopped,” she competed against three other grandmas, all trying to win the $10,000 prize. 

“Every one of these grandmas want to win,” said Graham on the show.  

The first round was the appetizer dish and the competitors’ baskets featured cupcakes, glazed ham, pomelos and potato latkes.  

Pulling out the glazed ham and pomelos had Graham’s mind going toward a Candian bacon pineapple pizza direction, so she stuck with that.  

Graham’s island pizza appetizer was met with minimal critiques. She secured her way into the second round. 

The entrée basket contained a fruit cake, beef tenderloin, beets and egg nogg.  

Unlike her fellow competitors, Graham was the only one who decided to actually cook the beets and not just use the greens. 

She knew that beets take a very long time to cook, but instead of falling under the pressure, she said, “I’m gonna stay merry.” 

She showed her expertise and cooked the beets in the microwave, a move that impressed judges Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy and Justin Sutherland.  

Her final dish was a beef tenderloin topped with a blue cheese, pecan crumble, sauteed beets and accompanied by eggnog mushrooms.  

Her hands were clenched tight with the hands of her competitors as they all awaited to see who would make it to the final round. Once again, she had made it to the next round.  

The dessert basket had inside marshmallows, spritz cookies, cranberries and creamed honey.  

Graham’s idea came quickly as she channeled fond memories with the ones that give her the title of “grandma” — her grandkids. 

“The whole concept was very creative and it was very much my heart,” said Graham. “With my grandkids, during the summer, we have our annual camping trip, but now we are transferring it to Christmas.”  

As Graham proceeded to make her Christmas cranberry s’more, the pressure of the win being so close appeared to be getting to her.  

Her marshmallows were getting “too toasty” and her cookie wasn’t cooking properly.  

“This is definitely the most concerned I’ve seen either one of them all day,” said Sutherland.   

Graham pulled herself and her dish together. It was now time to let the judges decide.  

Photo courtesy of Food Network.
Photo courtesy of Food Network.

Host Ted Allen lifted up the lid and revealed Graham’s dish was not on the chopping block. Her jaw dropped.  

“I can’t believe I just won ‘Chopped’!” exclaimed Graham.  

Graham sees her win as an opportunity to inspire her grandkids.  

“I want to leave a legacy for my grandkids that they can do anything they want,” said Graham. 

What Graham describes as her “ultimate goal” is to build an outdoor kitchen at her home and teach other kids how to cook, and be their grandma because everyone needs Grandma. 

“I personally think every child in the Santa Clarita community needs a grandma image,” said Graham. “They need Gamma’s (what her grandkids refer to her as) love and they need support and encouragement.” 

“I come to life when I’m around young kids.”  

She hopes that with this outdoor kitchen, she can help future generations keep the tradition of cooking going.  

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