Spicing things up


hestra teacher Steve Olson challenges the swiftly-moving clock.

“I’m really nervous,” Olson proclaimed while his heart slowly accelerated.

Before him were three food items: banana chips, creamy peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookies.

“There’s no way I’ll finish this in 30 minutes,” Olson said to himself.

Tossing the banana chips into a pot of boiling water, he begins preparing a block of chocolate to melt into an adjacent pot.

Olson recently signed up for the competitive cooking show “Chopped,” and his experience in the kitchen at C. M. Russell High School offers just a taste of what to expect if he is chosen for the show.

“Chopped” is a cooking show on which four chefs compete against each other. The contest is divided into three rounds — appetizer, entrée, and dessert — with a contestant being “chopped” after each round.

During the rounds, the chefs are given upwards of five “mystery ingredients” that must be present in each dish.

For judging, four plates must be made — one for each of the judges and another “beauty plate” to be judged off of presentation. The dishes are scored by the three judges in the following categories: taste, presentation, and creativity.

“Give me 10 more minutes?” Olson asks, reasoning that sometimes on the show more time is allotted for the dessert round.

The chips lay on a cutting board while Olson grabs a knife to slice them.

He mixes the cookies into a mixture of chocolate, eggs, and milk. Pouring the concoction into a pan, he opens the oven that he learned to operate minutes earlier.

He rushes around the room and struggles for a blender to mix together the bananas and peanut butter.

One minute remains.

Olson grabs a plate, the freshly cooked brownies, a spatula, and the banana-peanut butter puree.

He pours the puree onto the plate.

10 seconds.

He places a singular brownie on top of the sauce.

Five seconds.

He sprinkles some crushed banana chips over the plate.


The chef who outlasts the other three wins $10,000.

“If I would win, I would put the money aside for graduate school,” Olson said. “Or a Steinway grand piano.”

Cooking has been a passion for Olson since he was a child.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always liked being in the kitchen,” he said. He started taking a more serious interest in cooking his junior year of college in 2008.

The University of Montana, Olson was involved in the university orchestra.

“The artistic side of the musician comes out in all aspects of life,” he said. “In a way, we’re perfectionists.”

Being more of a perfectionist, Olson said that when he cooks, he prefers using recipes but “going blind is fun, too.”

He said that when he experiments, he overthinks, which causes him to make mistakes.

“It’s sad,” he said. “But that’s part of the fun of it.”

Looking past the potential sorrows of mistakes, Olson reminisces about his preferred style of cooking; on the grill.

He said that grilling is “a more fun way to cook” and that “everything tastes better.”

“The grill was my best friend; we did everything together,” he said. “It’s my favorite thing  to do in the summertime.”