Amrina chef Jassi Bindra picked up a win on Chopped and some major TV exposure.
Amrina brings inventive dining to The Woodlands.
Chopped is one of the Food Network's staple shows.
Amrina brings inventive dining to THe Woodlands.
Chef Jassi Bindra of Amrina in The Woodlands is one of the top chefs in Texas.
Amrina's lobby sets the tone for an impressive restaurant space.
No novice to television or high-stakes kitchens, Jassi Bindra, the executive chef and co-owner of the beloved Amrina restaurant in The Woodlands, parlayed his skill and experience to win $10,000 on Food Network’s Chopped. It’s been quite a ride for Bindra, who taped the episode titled “Oh My Squash,” which recently aired, back in November of 2022 in New York City.
“I think they approached my Instagram and they saw my posts and all that, which attracted them,” Bindra says of the casting process. “And then when they interviewed me. They asked me to show my personality on that interview. They had a Zoom call. And then after that, they presented it to the producers. And after a couple of days, I got an email that ‘Hey, you you’re selected for the job.’
“And I really wanted to showcase my talents. Especially for my cuisine. Especially for my culture on that national level, which really highlights my cuisine.”
A television veteran of the Zee network in India who also made appearances on Fox while working in Washington D.C, Bindra is anything but camera shy.
“I love being on camera,” Bindra tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “I think the confidence level was there. I was trying to enjoy myself. I was trying to be happy and you know, entertain. That’s what a chef’s is all about. Chefs are no longer behind the curtains.
“They are all in front and I think your personality highlights your food.”
The judges for Bindra’s Chopped episode were kept secret before the taping. They turned out to be Chris Santos, Eric Adjepong and Maneet Chauhan. With an Indian judge on the panel, Bindra knew the pressure was on.
“It was a pressure because at the end of the day, you’re cooking for someone who knows what you’re cooking and you cannot go wrong with it,” Bindra notes. “I don’t cook only ‘Indian’ Indian, because if you have seen the show, it was very eclectic.
“I merge all the flavor and I try to give a very eclectic soul to my cuisine. But at the end of the day, the soul is Indian.”
The time pressure is an important part of Chopped. With 20 minutes to prepare a dish, managing the clock and adrenaline are important.
“The time is like whenever you look at the clock, it’s five minutes gone,” Bindra says. “But don’t look and you don’t have anything on your table. It’s actually working in a kitchen like on a busy night. You’re playing with ingredients, the only concern is time and I think chefs are known for time management.”
The first basket on Bindra’s episode, with ingredients to create an appetizer, contained tinned sardines, spicy peanut butter, a loaf of brioche and watermelon radishes. Bindra created a stuffed poblano appetizer.
“I think when you open the basket, when you see those four ingredients, the first thing comes to your mind is how you’re going to marry those ingredients together for the dish. Because all the ingredients are very different from each other,” Bindra says. “And then you try to merge them into a dish which will be a winner.
“I think that’s the beauty of this challenge because you actually getting $10,000 for your experience.”
Bindra credits his win in part to his versatility.
“It was really helpful for me because I’m the chef who always work a lot with different ingredients,” he notes. “And I think working with those different ingredients in my cuisine really helped me because I think I worked with sardines. I worked with camel’s milk. I worked with squash before.
“And my techniques, which I showed on the show, like for example turning the omelet into an egg mousse.”
The main dish on this Woodlands chef’s Chopped episode brought a basket of short ribs, pea greens, cherry cola and a potato chip omelet.
Judge Chris Santos raved over what Bindra created, declaring that The Woodlands chef “killed the entree.”
“That second dish was really a star dish,” Bindra says. “Because I was more comfortable after the first round. Because I know where the stuff is and, you know, how to cook meat. I also mentioned in the show that ‘I’m from Texas. I cannot cook the meat the wrong way because I need to go back to Texas.’ ”
For the dessert, Bindra created a rabri, with camel’s milk, a squash and gooseberries.
A Chopped Victory For Everyone
Bindra was proud to win for the Sikh community and his parents.
“We believe in community meals and you know, are very much into feeding people when they are in need,” Bindra says. “I really think representing the Sikh culture and my religion also makes me feel proud. I’m the only person who is from the service industry in my family, and my parents believed me in that. So I really wanted to win this for them.
“To say that I didn’t make the wrong choice. And you didn’t made the wrong choice to believe in me. So you know, I really wanted to win for them.”
Plenty of people in The Woodlands are proud too. A group gathered at Amrina to watch the episode of Chopped the night it aired.
“I had to keep the secret even on the day when we had the show on and guests were watching asking ‘Hey, what happened?’ ” Bindra notes. “I said ‘It’s live. Please keep on watching.’ But you know, I think people had faith in me.”
He had a cheering crowd of Coulson Tough teachers too. Bindra’s son is a fifth grader there.
“All the teachers are very excited about the show,” Bindra says. “And it’s a pride moment for my son to represent me. You know, and he was very excited when he saw the show. He’s really proud because he helps me cooking back home. He comes sometimes here to Amrina and he was very excited after seeing the show.
“And he was like, ‘Hey, Dad, my teachers told me that they saw you on the show.’ “
Soon diners will be able to sample the dishes he created on the show.
“As soon as the Restaurant Week winds down, I will start doing this three course tasting menu which will be $65 per person for food and if they want to do wine pairing with that it will be $35 extra,” Bindra says.
With time no longer a factor, Bindra says the dishes will be slightly different. “The presentation will be way better because now I have time,” he promises. “I will cook the same things but with more elegance.”
No one doubts what Jassi Bindra can do anymore. Whether it’s tackling Chopped or anything else.