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Bergen County Chef Competes On 'Chopped' For $10,000 Prize

Chef Gregory Stott on Food Network's "Chopped" airs Sept. 17.
Chef Gregory Stott on Food Network's "Chopped" airs Sept. 17. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Food Network

Pressure and competition have played equally important roles in Bergen County native Gregory Stott's life.

The former pro golfer-turned-Wall Street stock broker combined both elements over the summer as a contestant on Food Network cooking show "Chopped."

The episode titled "Weird, Wacky, and Wild!" on Wikipedia will air on Sept. 17.

Stott -- a Ridgewood native who lives in Haworth with his wife and two daughters -- is the executive head chef of The Old '76 House in Tappan, N.Y.

He and three other contestants were presented with a box of surprise and arbitrary items and tasked with creating an appetizer, entree and dessert for a panel of celebrity chef judges.

The judges are Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Chef Amanda Freitag, a Cedar Grove native.

Each round, one person was "chopped" and the winner takes home $10,000.

Stott couldn't say much about the show -- other than it being unforgettable.

"It was an amazing experience," Stott said.  "It wasn't what I expected."

Ridgewood native and chef Gregory Stott competes on "Chopped."

Stott is the executive chef at The Old '76 House in Tappan.

Stott likely wouldn't have had the Food Network opportunity if he hadn't followed his dreams to the kitchen.

The chef spent his first three years out of Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts trying to make it to the PGA Tour as a professional golfer.

After three years playing competitively and living in Florida, Stott called it quits and transitioned to his next gig: Wall Street.

He loved it his new job as a stock broker... for a while.

Things changed in 2000 when much of the industry became computerized.

"It wasn't as autonomous as it once was," Stott said. "A lot of the good managers were leaving and the fun was taken out of the job.

"I went from enjoying what I did to spinning my wheels."

At his mother's suggestion, Stott left Wall Street to start culinary school at the French Culinary Institute, just a few blocks away from his downtown apartment.

He bounced around between several New York City restaurants, putting in his time as a line cook and learning under reputable chefs.

Quiche by Chef Stott.

Wings by Chef Stott.

"It's not the smartest move to go from Wall Street to burning yourself in the kitchen, working 80 hours making peanuts," Stott said. "But I love the creative side."

Stott started a family and returned to his roots in Bergen County.

If you've ever dined at Panache in Ramsey, Esty Street in Park Ridge, A Mano in Ridgewood -- where he doubled their sales as a management partner -- or The Old '76 House in Tappan, you may recognize the chef.

Stott worked at Cafe Panache in Ramsey before coming to The Old '76 House.

Chef Gregory Stott.

Being on "Chopped" was the first time in a while that Stott was in an unfamiliar kitchen, adding an unforeseen challenge to the competition.

"There's no home court advantage for anyone," the chef said. "When I'm in my kitchen I know where everything is. There’s a comfort level when you’re around coworker you see every day.

"When you take those things away and take away that comfort level that you become used to, it's amazing what can go wrong."

Still, Stott said, the unknown is what he prepares for every day.

"The show is based on what you encounter in a kitchen," he said. "Sometimes something goes wrong, maybe a delivery doesn’t come in and you have to move things around and think outside box."

Stott says the decision to be on "Chopped" was quite out of character.

He hopes, though, that it serves as a lesson for his daughters -- particularly the older one with an affinity for cooking.

"Don't shy away from any opportunity and look back and say 'I wish I had' or I wish I hadn’t,'" Stott said.

"It sounds cliche but whether you win or loose, it's better to try and to loose than not try something at all."

The public is invited to a viewing party at The Old '76 House on Sept. 17. Tune in to Food Network at 9 p.m.

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