finished second in an episode of the Food Network’s “Chopped” that aired Tuesday, perhaps fittingly for being just a tad too sweet.
Houlihan lost to Cheryl Barbara of New Haven in an episode featuring four cafeteria chefs, three from Connecticut. Although it was originally filmed in June, the show aired Tuesday night at 10.
“To be able to have this honor to come here and cook for you (judges), it is just amazing. It is something I never thought I would be able to do,” said Houlihan on the television show while fighting back tears. “A lot of people say you are just a lunch lady in a cafeteria and I don’t feel like just a lunch lady anymore.”
Barbara won $10,000.
The show begins with four contestants, in this case four cafeteria workers. The show lasts three rounds, appetizer, entrée and dessert, with a contestant being “chopped,” or eliminated, each round.
In each round, the contestants are given four random and often unusual ingredients that they have to use in the dish. They are allowed to use other ingredients as well.
In the first round, the four contestants were given 20 minutes and the ingredients canned tuna, wonton wrappers, spinach and dill pickles to make an appetizer. Houlihan survived by creating a goat cheese and tuna beggar’s purse over green spinach.
In the second round, the contestants were given collard greens, chicken breasts, anchovies and quinoa and 30 minutes to create an entrée. Again, Houlihan survived elimination from the panel of three judges with her sesame-crusted chicken breast with vegetable quinoa.
In the dessert round though Houlihan finally lost. Barbara and Houlihan where given 20 minutes to make a dessert using sunflower seeds, grapes, cream cheese and canned pineapple.
Houlihan made a fresh fruit ambrosia with grilled pineapple and toasted sunflower seeds and a fresh fruit smoothie. But the judges said Houlihan’s dish was a tad “too sweet,” as they favored Barbara’s sweet grilled cheese sandwich.
“I’m very disappointed,” Houlihan said on the show after losing. “It would have been a lot to win, just personally, career-wise, you know it feels good to be recognized when you work hard every day. But having this opportunity is probably the best recognition I’ll probably ever have and I’m grateful for that.”
Each contestant was introduced at the beginning of the episode. Houlihan was shown serving food in Great Neck School, and giving a quick interview over clips of New London.
“I might not make much money but I feel like I’m rewarded just seeing (Great Neck students') smiling faces every day,” she said in the introduction. “I told my husband winning Chopped would be like winning the Superbowl.”
Houlihan said if she won, she would have taken her grandson to Disney World. She said she was honored that the show recognized what cafeteria workers do every day.
Within a few minutes of posting about Houlihan's performance on Facebook, Waterford Patch began to receive immediate feedback. Here are some of the comments:
Matt Bartkowski: "I've spent the last hour on the edge of my couch. Congrats Diane!"
Randall Collins: "Diane brought great honor to Waterford. She did a fabulous job."
Michelle Duplice: "So proud. You did a great job Diane, you are a winner as far as I'm concerned."