Cincy chef clinches Chopped

By Mo Juenger, Print Managing Editor

Patrons at Cincinnati’s own Arnold’s Bar & Grill were ecstatic as Head Chef Kayla Robison sauteed her way to stardom Tuesday. 

Robison won an episode of the cooking competition show Chopped, beating three other chefs along the way. 

In the show, four chefs are asked to create a three-course meal based on a basket of mystery ingredients. 

Typical baskets are not gourmet — Thursday’s episode featured alligator tenderloin, pine cone syrup and mushroom-flavored candy canes as required inclusions. 

The appetizer that led Robison to success was an alligator and edamame wonton with chocolate dipping sauce. 

She followed that up with a frog leg banh mi sandwich with churchkhela and match pate for an entree, alongside a fruit cereal and lemon ganache cake for dessert. 

In an emotional clip from the episode, Robison noted that her daughter has been a major inspiration for her as a chef. 

Robison became pregnant at 19, and she said late nights spent cooking have sometimes limited the time the pair can spend together. 

“I want to win Chopped to show that all these hardworking hours and time that I missed has paid off,” she said in the episode.

“(I’m) even more honored to bring this home to my kid… Telling my daughter I’ve won is one of my top moments,” she added after her victory. “Bringing this home to my daughter and my family, I know this is the most proud of me they’ve been of me.”

Not all her time in the kitchen has been away from 11-year-old daughter Dre, though. Throughout the pandemic, Kayla and Dre created instructional cooking videos and posted them to the Arnold’s company Facebook. 

Newswire photo by Mo Juenger

Robison also has a history with reality cooking shows, having been featured on Man vs. Food and The Today Show. In 2019, she won Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, hosted by Guy Fieri. 

Arnold’s celebrated Robison further with a watch party for the Chopped episode on Tuesday, which catered to a packed house. 

Patrons — including family friends of Robison’s as well as diehard Food Network fans — cheered as Robison’s dishes pushed her forward in the competition and booed at poor comments and commercial breaks.

After the judges announced her win, Arnold’s erupted with excitement. Chants and cheers only subsided when the restaurant’s manager took to the stage to award her a prize of their own: a plaque commemorating her cooking show wins throughout the years. 

“This goes to all my girls in the kitchen,” Robison announced at the end of the watch party. “All of Arnold’s has literally been a part of this. They’ve supported me through all my crazy adventures. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if they weren’t here to kick ass in the kitchen.”

“Guys, we f*cking did it!” Robison cheered, and Arnold’s cheered back.