It’s not everyday that one of Executive Success Programs’ coaches competes on national television. So while slightly overdue, we wanted to share an important win for fellow professional coach and health-supportive chef, Natalia Gaviria, as she took the win on the hit reality show “Chopped.”
Like many chefs, Natalia always enjoyed cooking, but her career didn’t begin in the culinary arts. Rather, she got her start in Interior Architecture (although, depending on how you look at it, it may have come around full circle). Originally from Medellín, Colombia, Natalia moved to Florida in 1991, and studied at the Ringling School of Art & Design in 1994. After graduating, she worked in retail design and eventually moved to New York City. There, she and two friends started a business selling handcrafted products from around the world to luxury markets.
The idea of becoming a chef was inspired by one of Natalia’s business partners: During a client dinner in their NYC showroom, several people noticed how Natalia positively flourished while preparing the meal. Her partner approached her, saying, “Do us all a favor and do what you love!”
In 2008, when Natalia was studying at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, she took her first ESP training and became a coach before she’d even finished the training. After culinary school, she started like most chefs do: with internships, restaurant and catering gigs, and of course, peeling potatoes for 14 hours a day. About two years after graduating, Natalia became an independent caterer and private chef, and wrote four cookbooks for Colombian audiences.
In the fall of 2013, Natalia was cast in the Food Network’s “Chopped,” an American reality-based cooking game show. The rules of the game are simple, yet nerve-wracking: four chefs face off against one another to prepare their best three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entree and dessert. Here’s the catch: In each round, they must use all the ingredients the show provides in a mystery basket, however unlikely they might be, all while racing against the clock. At the end of each course, a panel of three guest judges “chops” the chef who fails to measure up against the others in terms of taste, presentation and creativity. The last chef standing takes home bragging rights and a cash prize.
You might say Natalia is the type of person who performs well under pressure, but nothing had prepared her for this (she’d only ever watched two episodes of the show before setting foot on the set). The day started at 6:00 a.m. The four contestants (all women) were told the first person to be chopped would leave around noon that day, and the winner would be there as late as 11 or 12 at night after interviews, photo ops, and so on.
From the two episodes she’d watched, Natalia imagined she and the other contestants might have a few minutes off camera once the ingredients were revealed to gather their equipment and supplies, and make a plan. But, really, what you see is what you get: They got a five-minute tour of the Chopped set, with a rep quickly pointing every which way, “Immersion circulator, anti-griddle, smoke gun, molecular section…” Natalia said,
“It’s exactly how it is on TV—there’s no peeking and no time to plan. You get a walkthrough of the pantry and kitchen equipment in 5 minutes. It’s like walking into someone else’s kitchen to cook—you don’t know where anything is.”
Natalia immediately put ESP’s tools to use: Although her body was loaded with adrenaline, she kept the intensity under control, and a clear, careful focus on what she was doing. As fear hurdles rose through each round of the competition, she kept her mind on what was important: to do her personal best, and to compete with—not against—her fellow contestants, which is something she learned from ESP’s founder, Keith Raniere. And in the moments where her dishes were put through the fire of three fierce judges, she remained vulnerable, centered and true to herself. She left it all on the table: her improvisation skills, creativity and passion for cooking.
“Haricot Flair,” (Season 20, episode 10) aired in the United States on October 28, 2014. By the end of the competition, Natalia Gaviria was crowned “Chopped Champion,” taking home a prize of $10,000 and, best of all, a brand new understanding of herself and her capabilities.