A local chef and registered dietitian took home the grand prize of $10,000 after competing on a Food Network TV show episode that aired last month.
Jennifer Fillenworth, executive chef and dietitian at Root Functional Medicine and a personal chef with her business, Jenny with the Good Eats, competed in an episode on the Food Network’s “Supermarket Stakeout” show Jan. 19 and won the grand prize of $10,000, besting three other contestants from Louisiana, Florida and New Jersey.
“Supermarket Stakeout” is a reality show hosted by “Iron Chef” Alex Guarnaschelli, who takes four chefs and puts them into the ultimate culinary battle — in the parking lot of a grocery store. The competitors must stake out groceries from shoppers exiting the store. Each chef must negotiate with shoppers to buy their groceries right on the spot. The chefs are given $500 for all three rounds. Each round features a different twist and a different theme. The contestants cook their dishes in a makeshift, outdoor kitchen at the end of each round, and the last chef standing takes home a grand prize of $10,000.
The theme of the Jan. 19 episode was “Greek, Sweet & Open-faced Eats,” and the contestants were judged on execution of the round’s theme, taste, presentation and culinary techniques.
“Cooking in a parking lot with random ingredients might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Fillenworth said.
The theme of the first round was “It’s all Greek to me,” and the contestants had to bid blindly for carts. Fillenworth said Round 1 saw her spending over $200 of her total budget on a cart that turned out to not have any groceries that fit the Greek theme. She ended up returning for a second cart, spending an additional $150. From the second cart, she made a Greek meatball appetizer using ground beef, vegetables, pickled red onion she made herself and a sour cream tzatziki sauce on grilled naan bread.
“I had mostly positive reviews on the dish, and it was off to Round 2 for me,” she said.
The theme for Round 2 was “fruity dessert.” Fillenworth bought one of the first carts that came out of the store after being allowed to see into the bags before bidding. Although the only fruits in the bag were tomatoes and a pomegranate, she decided it had enough core baking ingredients to execute her vision, and she purchased the cart for $90, making a pomegranate cake to “rave reviews.”
This put her into the final round with Chef Julie from New Jersey, a previous Food Network champion on another show. The theme of the final round was “open-faced.”
“We could only buy five ingredients for this round but could choose what items we purchased,” Fillenworth said. “I had the idea of doing a flatbread but really didn’t see much coming out of the store that fit the flatbread theme. I decided I was going to take a huge risk and make my own flatbread from scratch with the few pantry items we had on hand. I ended up purchasing garlic and herb goat cheese, cream cheese, blueberries, a bouquet of herbs and onions. I ended up making a pickled blueberry and goat cheese flatbread with caramelized onions and fresh herbs. The judges had mixed reviews on my flatbread, but I ended up nailing the theme and taking home the grand prize of $10,000.”
Fillenworth said the win “felt great” after a rough 2019 in which she was in a car accident and had to delay her appearance on the show during her recovery — then the show was delayed again when COVID-19 hit.
“This felt like the light at the end of the tunnel for me. I felt incredibly focused and prepared to take this on,” she said. “I also felt a sense of validation being a registered dietitian and personal chef competing next to these top tier chefs.”
Fillenworth said she will use her prize money to travel for continuing education and food inspiration.
She added she isn’t ruling out competing again if the network invites her to return.
The “Greek, Sweet & Open-Faced Eats” episode will air again at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Food Network.