Paul Cao competing in round one on the set of “Chopped.”

Irvine chef wins on ‘Chopped’

by LORI BASHEDA

Spaghetti Grilled Cheese.

The chef-owner of Burnt Crumbs and inventor of the popular Spaghetti Grilled Cheese has just won an episode of the popular Food Network show “Chopped,” representing Irvine on national TV.

“This is unbelievable,” Paul Cao tells the judges when they crown him “Chopped” champ. “I’m like shaking right now. This is awesome.”

The show, “Soup and Sandwich Savvy,” aired Sept. 22. It was filmed pre-pandemic in a studio in New York City but features some B-roll taped at Burnt Crumbs in the Los Olivos Shopping Center.

“I was freaking out,” Cao says of the competition. “You feel like a rotisserie chicken at Costco. There are so many lights on you, and it’s hot. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, and your adrenaline is through the roof.”

Cao went up against three East Coast chefs. He survived one round with his Limoncello Duck Broth and Grilled Chicken Banh Mi. And he was the last chef standing after whipping up a Mango Funnel Cake Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Chocolate Soup.

Cao said he never wished to be on TV but he has two sons at home in Irvine, ages 3 and 2, and thought it would be cool if, when they were older and surfing the internet, they stumbled upon the show and thought: “My dad was kind of cool at one time.”

Besides bragging rights, Cao came home with $10,000, which he put back into Burnt Crumbs.

“All in all, it was a crazy experience, and I’m really grateful for it and happy I won, but having this air amid what we’re all going through now is such a crazy and surreal contrast,” he says. “I know I’m not in a position to move culture or have a major impact on what’s going on in the world, but I do hope with this win that I can get this message across: Please continue to support local businesses and restaurants.”