Matthew Arlington ’06 has always loved cooking. Even when he was at Lehigh studying marketing, he would read cookbooks in his free time.
His passion for cooking led him to win the $10,000 prize on Chopped, a popular cooking competition show on the Food Network .
“I joke with my friends from Lehigh that I got my start cooking in the kitchen at Chi Psi,” said Arlington. “All the guys in the fraternity would line up outside my door when they got hungry.”
In the final round of the episode, Arlington opened his basket to find jalebi, sweet and spicy cocktail sugar, habichuelas con dulce and roasted red peppers. These four ingredients were the only things standing in his way to becoming a Chopped Champion.
He used his last 30 minutes of the competition to create a chocolate chili rice pudding with sweet and spicy churros. This dessert propelled him to victory.
After graduating from Lehigh, Arlington worked in advertising for two and a half years until he decided that his true passion was cooking. He left the advertising world to go to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
He has worked as a chef at two restaurants in New York City, one under Mario Batali, and planned to open a funky gastropub named Union Hall in Hoboken, NJ.
Arlington will act as partner and executive chef.
Arlington caught an early episode of Chopped while working in advertising, which gave him the inspiration to quit his job and go to culinary school. After he gained enough experience, he decided to send in his application for the show. He waited for a call back, and, after a few interviews, he was accepted as a contestant.
Arlington’s episode was themed the chili cook-off challenge, meaning every round had to be chili inspired.
“I worked really hard when I first became a chef. I was just in my zone.”
This victory was an important benchmark in Arlington’s career. He said it took a lot of guts to leave his job in advertising, where he had a clear career path, and start cooking later in life. Chopped, he said, was his opportunity to compete against chefs who had more experience and prove to them that he knows what he is doing.
“For me the Chopped victory was a stamp of approval,” said Arlington.
The episode aired Aug. 21.
Story by Margaret Burnett