Charleston chef becomes Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ champion

Charlestonians may have noticed a familiar face on the Food Network Channel’s Chopped November 22. Nikko Cagalanan, local chef and owner of pop-up Mansueta’s Filipino Food, competed on the high-intensity food competition show — and won.

“Last year in October, they sent me an invite via Instagram,” he said. “And I thought it was fake.”

It wasn’t until a week later, Cagalanan told the City Paperthat he looked into the profile of the casting agent and said to himself, “Oh, this is real.”

Several months of phone interviews later, Cagalalan was on the Chopped set, ready to be thrown into the competition.

“I think doing pop-ups helped me a lot,” he said. “I’ve been doing pop-ups forever and that really prepared me to do Chopped — not knowing what’s in the kitchen, what’s in the pantry or where everything is. Pop-ups helped me adapt quickly.”

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