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Phillip Dell on Battling the Devil to Get on Chopped

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Phillip Dell
Phillip Dell
Photo: Chelsea McManus

Phillip Dell took a look at himself in the mirror in 2005 and decided it was time to make a change. The former pastry chef de partie at Wynn Las Vegas decided it was time to get in shape, and over the next year, he lost 92 pounds and reduced his body fat from 36 to 9 percent. "Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to spend hours in the gym to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to change your diet. Stop drinking and eating pizzas at 2 a.m. When they say just go for a walk, they're not kidding," Dell says.

Now he teaches classes on healthy cooking at Sin City Chefs. He decided to take on bodybuilding and in his first year competing, Dell finished top five in six shows and competed as a part of Team USA 2007 in Greece. In October 2010, he won the title of World Champion for the Deadlift in his weight class.

Tonight he appears on the Food Network's Chopped at 9 p.m. PDT in an episode dubbed "Cook Your Butt Off." The four chefs on board not only talk about their weight-loss stories by take part in mystery basked challenges that bring their knowledge of healthy foods into the mix. In the first round, the chefs find a fatty protein that challenges them to stick to their healthier food philosophies. In the entrée round, there's a fish to break down and a snack food to transform. The final two physically fit competitors dash into the dessert round to make a heavenly version of angel food cake.

Here, Dell talks about his appearance on Chopped, what he had to do to prepare and a surprise in the show.

What did you do to prepare to be on Chopped?
To be honest with you, ever since Chopped came out, everyone said, "You should apply," and I never applied. I would say my daily duties of cooking for people in a very limited situation with not a lot of tools or no tools prepped me for the show. I didn't really do training. My wife would come up with a basket and ask me, "What you would make?" My wife would name ingredients and I had 10 seconds to come up with an answer.

I'll tell you, when that basket opens, all the rules go out the window, just because of nerves.

Did you have any concerns about any of the courses?
?No, not necessarily. I have in my own head a list of ingredients. There might be some that I haven't worked with in a while. I went into the show with an open mind. I gave it to God. If I don't know how to use something, he'll tell me.

Do you think the ingredients you received were indicative of real-life experiences?
Yes, absolutely.

What made you decide to be on the show?
?I think I can be OK by saying this. I had to apply like everyone else. I received a phone call one day to do so. They have a list of ones they're looking for, like a professional chef version, an amateur version, special episodes. So that's pretty much how I fell in that spot.

Did you second guess any of your dishes??
Yes.

Were any of the dishes you made inspired by something you've actually made before?
?I guess you could say I integrated some of the things I've made before.

What did you learn from the show?
That it's not as easy as it looks on television. I learned that sometimes you just have to go with the punches. It's out of your control. You can do what you can do and that's it. You have to keep your head held high.

Are you going to have a viewing party?
A private one. At a later date, I would love to have a bigger one. How can you have a viewing party when no one knows how you did?

I'm just as nervous as everyone else. You never know how they edit things.

Are there any surprises on the show?
At 4 in the morning that day I was pounding on the floor in pain. I have a compressed disk in my neck. I experienced muscle soreness. It got worse and then I went to New York. I was in so much pain I couldn't get comfortable. It was my first time there. I was in miserable pain. My wife asked, "Do you want to go to the doctor or the ER?" No, the devil's trying to stop me.

There was a time something happened because I had no feeling in my arm. I couldn't move. It as quite interesting to say the least.
· All Coverage of Chopped [~ELV~]

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