Dover Chef Wins the Top Prize on "Chopped"

Chef Evan Hennessey shows the world what NH chefs have to offer.

Courtesy photo

By the time Evan Hennessey found himself on the set of one of the most popular food competitions on television, facing off against a field of some of the best chefs in the business, he had no time to let stage fright get in the way of a good dish — or, in this case, his chance at a “Chopped” victory.

“I was thinking, if anybody’s going to beat me, it’s me,” recalls Hennessey, who can usually be found in the kitchen of Stages at One Washington, the restaurant he runs in Dover.

“If I’m going down,” he thought, “it’s because I make a mistake, or somebody out-cooks me, and that’s fair.”

Luckily, just the opposite proved true: Hennessey out-cooked all of his competitors in a “Leftover Takeover”-themed faceoff, where part of the challenge involved coming up with creative uses for the likes of “unfinished Chinese takeout and something remaining from a meal at an Italian restaurant,” per the show notes. It was a far cry from Hennessey’s usual menu at Stages, which features an array of locally foraged, creatively constructed fare that looks almost too pretty to eat, let alone stuff into tinfoil or a takeout carton.

But the key, he says, was to focus on technique.

“They’re not New England ingredients, they’re not New Hampshire ingredients,” Hennessey says of the competition dishes. “And that’s when you have to rely on the longevity of your career and all of your different experiences to be able to pull from a multitude of cuisines very quickly.”

For his efforts, Hennessey walked away with $10,000, plenty of good publicity for his Dover dining spot and a long line of callers seeking dinner reservations. The episode debuted in the first week of May, and within two weeks, Stages was booked solid through July.

But the real victory to take away from the show, in his mind, is much bigger: It also brought some long-overdue recognition for the Granite State’s culinary scene.

While that scene might not have a national reputation as a foodie destination, the way Hennessey sees it, “I’ve always thought we’ve had something worth noticing anyway, and we just haven’t had many opportunities to showcase it.”

“We have beautiful farms doing incredible things raising some really beautiful and healthy animals and growing some really unbelievable vegetables, and we want to be able to showcase that again and again,” Hennessey says. “New Hampshire is not just a small state, we have such a beautiful thing here.”

You might just want to make sure to get your reservation in now, before everyone else starts to catch on too.

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