13-year-old Stamford chef is ‘Chopped’ teen champion

There aren’t many chefs who could figure out what to make with toaster pastries, filet mignon, jarred black truffles and heirloom tomatoes.

But Hunter Zampa isn’t your typical chef.

At 13, Zampa, of Stamford, is already a whiz in the kitchen, a budding ‘Food Network’ star who has cooked with Rachael Ray, Regis Philbin and Guy Fieri.

Zampa once again proved his chops, coming out on top in Food Network’s special teen edition of “Chopped” that aired Tuesday night.

Besting three other contestants aged 13 to 16, Zampa was awarded a $40,000 scholarship to The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes.

“When (host) Ted (Allen) announced that I had won Chopped, I almost passed out,” Zampa told the Food Network. “My eyes started to water, and my heart was beating out of my chest! It was a feeling of relief, joy and shock all at once. I was thinking of my father — how he helped me every step of the way — and how I could celebrate winning with him and the rest of my family.”

Following in the format of the “Chopped” TV series, the contest challenged teen chefs to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into a dish that is judged on creativity, presentation and taste with minimal time to plan and execute.

Here’s what they had to work with:

Appetizer basket:  broccoli rabe, cherry flavored drink, swordfish, tiger figs

Entrée basket:  filet mignon, heirloom tomatoes, jarred black truffles, toaster pastries

Dessert basket:  cotton candy grapes, cream cheese, salt bagels, strawberry mints

Pretty crazy, right?

The “Chopped” championship is a big deal for Zampa, who came close to winning, but ultimately lost, another Food Network cooking competition, “Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off,” earlier this year.

If you missed Zampa last night, you can catch him again on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. or Sunday Dec. 29 at midnight.

Scott Gargan