Charleston has had a strong showing on the Food Network as of late. Last month Bay Street Biergarten’s former “Pretzel Princess” Eva Winan competed on Chopped. On Sun. Jan. 18 Lana owner and executive chef John Ondo will take the stage on Alton Brown’s Cutthroat Kitchen. But last week was the big dance. Three local chefs — Emily Hahn of Cannon Street bar Warehouse, Victoria Neikrik of Pearlz Oyster Bar, and chef de cuisine Vandy Vanderwarker of The Ordinary —faced off against Oregon’s chef Tynan Gibson on Chopped

The competitions’ three mystery ingredients were crowd sourced through social media and included such delicacies as calf eyeballs, beef tongue, boxed mac and cheese, and ostrich eggs.

Hahn and Vanderwarker both made it to the finals, but Vandy ultimately won out. We caught up with Vanderwarker to find out what the experience was like and how he plans to spend his big $10,000 cash prize.

City Paper: First, congrats on the win. What made you decide to go on the show?
Vandy Vanderwarker: I wanted to prove that I’m making some strides in my career that are worthwhile. The show proved that I am confident, driven, and deserving. It was a great experience and I would even do it again.

CP: What was it like cooking under the spotlight?
Vandy Vanderwarker: The competition was pretty intense. You are in a foreign kitchen, using ovens that you aren’t used to and having no clue where anything is. When you pull the last mystery ingredient from the basket, time starts. It is real time and it goes by fast. 

CP: And yet you pulled through with the win. How do you plan to spend your big prize?
VV: With the $10,000, I plan on taking care of myself. I need to get eye surgery from a cooking accident six years ago, so that is my main focus.

CP: If you have a bit of cash leftover, will you continue to work, or take some time off?
VV: I am staying as chef de cuisine at The Ordinary. Working with Mike Lata everyday is a priceless advantage that no one else can share. I am very lucky and happy to be in the position I am in.