Noam Bilitzer’s mom was shocked when she turned on the TV and saw her son live his childhood dream.
Her son kept her in the dark for almost nine months as he applied for, filmed and won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped.”
“My family always joked about me being on the show,” said Bilitzer, who’s the Chef de Cuisine at the restaurant Proof on Main in Louisville, Kentucky.
The 2011 graduate of Gainesville’s Institute of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School won the title “Chopped Champion” and $10,000 on an episode that premiered Tuesday. The episode will air again 9 p.m. Thursday.
“I was in complete shock,” the 25-year-old said. “I was basically frozen for a few hours afterward and didn’t really realize what had happened.”
His episode of the show, which was filmed in October, was centered on meat. Bilitzer and the other chefs cooked with wild boar, antelope and venison.
He prepared seared wild boar loin with alligator and truffle glaze for the appetizer. The main course was seared antelope with rare heart and charred dandelion greens, and a venison sausage fritter with moose milk creme anglaise.
Despite being unfamiliar with the meat, Bilitzer was able to win because he had a strategy: He kept it simple and focused on making good food.
After middle school, Bilitzer moved from South Florida to Gainesville to pursue his passion at The Institute of Culinary Arts, a magnet program at Eastside High School.
Although he was a failing student, he turned his grades around at the institute and graduated with a 4.0 GPA, he said.
He credits chefs Pamela Bedford and Billie DeNunzio from the institute with helping him advance his skills.
Bedford said Bilitzer was one of her first students at the institute because she started working there when he was a freshman, so the two grew together.
Bilitzer stood out from the beginning, she said.
“I was just really impressed with his level of maturity and his dedication to food in general,” Bedford said.
She said Bilitzer called her two weeks before the episode aired to tell her to watch.
Before the episode, she was nervous he hadn’t won, so she convinced herself he lost to avoid disappointment.
At 11 p.m. when she found out he won, she screamed in excitement.
“My husband said, ‘Hush! You’re going to wake up the kids,’” she said.
Bilitzer said he would recommend for other chefs to go on “Chopped” if they’re willing to work hard.
“It’s a lot harder than what people might think,” he said. “There’s no real preparation.”