HONOLULU (KHON2) – Waipahu native Thomas Tapat made his on-camera debut Tuesday night on Food Network’s competition show “Chopped.”
Tapat currently lives in Las Vegas and works as the executive sous chef at SushiSamba in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Palazzo.
He was chosen from thousands of people in three different states to be on the show.
“Having to be on the show and really think on what I could do in 30 minutes, or could I do it in 30 minutes. Will it taste good? Will it look good?” said Tapat. “Your palms are sweaty. You have butterflies in your stomach. Your legs are like constantly like you just want to do jumping jacks.”
After graduating from Waipahu High School, Tapat went to culinary school before moving to Las Vegas.
While there, he received a coveted job as a sous chef under legendary French chef Joël Robuchon at his eponymous Las Vegas restaurant, which has three Michelin stars. Tapat says it was one of the hardest positions that he’s ever had to do, but it taught him how to become a better chef.
Spoiler alert: After hours of intense competition, Tapat emerged victorious. His dessert of malasadas and budino soft-serve ice cream with candied mandarins won over the judges, and earned him the $10,000 grand prize and title of Chopped champion.
He knew all along what he would serve if he made it to the final dessert round.
“I had to take it back to the roots, you know. Eating malasadas every week, going to Leonard’s (Bakery), like eating four or five doughnuts at one seating, I had to do it. That was my all-time goal,” he told KHON2.
Tapat says he taped the episode back in December and had to keep his victory a secret. Only his close family knew the results until Tuesday night’s viewing party at SushiSamba, where he served a menu inspired by his food on the show.
“I’m so happy and proud to be from Hawaii, and showing them that anybody can make it in life. You just need to push yourself and just do the best you can, and if life throws you curveballs, swing for the fences and hopefully you hit that home run,” he said.