In 2014, vegan and raw food chef Lauren Von Der Pool, aka Queen of Green, appeared on two episodes of “Chopped.” (If you don’t remember her, click on the “True Feelings Come Out” video here.) Her first appearance, a drama-filled January 2014 episode called “Waste Not,” showcased her rivalry with chef Sarah Pouzar. Judges Aarón Sánchez and Marcus Samuelsson remarked on Von Der Pool’s eye-rolling and her tension with Pouzar, who stated Von Der Pool didn’t like her. Von Der Pool returned in February 2014 to appear on a redemption episode, but she was eliminated after the first round (albeit she got along with her fellow contestants). In the aftermath of Von Der Pool’s first “Chopped” episode, fans of the show left disparaging comments on YouTube and Reddit, calling her a “bitch” and saying she had a “nasty attitude.”
But before appearing on “Chopped,” Von Der Pool had already established herself as personal chef to Venus and Serena Williams, was an executive chef for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and had published a cookbook. And after “Chopped,” she actually acquired more celebrity clients: Ky-Mani Marley asked her to appear in his music video and Cedric the Entertainer hired her to work on “Barbershop 3” and cater a golf tournament, based on seeing her on “Chopped.” In this edition of Voices In Food, Von Der Pool talks to Garin Pirnia about her experiences with Pouzar, how reality TV skews reality and her gratitude.
“Chopped” was a beautiful opportunity to have fun. When they contacted me to be on the show, I was obliged and went for it. When we showed up at call time, I let everyone know it’s all good, but that once we got into the competition I’m not going to be speaking a lot, because I’m going to go into another zone ― when I’m in the kitchen, it’s one thing to perform but it’s another thing to execute and get some shit done. I wasn’t really interested in playing nice, and I let them know that.
Sarah was annoying. She kept talking to me and asking me for my ingredients. [I thought,] “Stop talking to me. Leave me alone.” [When she won], I thought it was some bullshit. There’s no way Sarah’s ass could win with a chocolate chicken bread pudding in a broth of onion soup and a taco on the side. Ma’am, what is going on? No ma’am. This looks like a slop and a drop. There’s no way you’re winning over me, Sarah. Maybe Sarah had a hidden gem underneath all of that. Maybe it was delicious. [The judges] did not say that. It was just a flop to me. I was so surprised.
But Sarah is not a factor in my life. I’m poolside in Ghana, having an interview with you, not thinking about Sarah. There’s just too much to be grateful for in my life to be thinking about Sarah.
The judges definitely pegged me as a villain and I kind of fell into it. I forget sometimes how expressive my face is. I might not say a word, but my face will say it all and that’s what gave me away, mostly, on “Chopped.”
To hear those kinds of comments in regard to me, it’s absolutely hilarious. I don’t look at what they’re saying in the blogs. That doesn’t serve me well. It’s hilarious that they’re even talking about it. Wow, are we really spending time on this? You got to get some other things to do. The things people think they hate about me are the things they hate about themselves. You don’t know who I am. That’s not who I am on the planet. I’m not a bitch. I’m direct. There might be things that I say to you that maybe you might not like, but my grandmother taught me that only a friend is going to tell you the truth, and authenticity is number one on my list. Either you’re going to love all of me or you’re not. That’s fine by me. Because you’re going to fuck up. I’m going to fuck up. At the end of the day, we need to have compassion for each other. I don’t know if I handled that situation the best way I could’ve, but I learned great lessons from it.
When I saw [the episode], I cracked up. I didn’t like the way certain parts of me were painted, like the way they edited certain things. When I said a girl stabbed me in the head with a Moët & Chandon Champagne bottle, they took out some very important sound bites. I was joking and making light of a situation that is actually not meant to be taken lightly. It looked like I was delusional, honestly. I was 16 years old and someone who didn’t like me, we got into it and she stabbed me. There was a multitude of things that happened that brought me into my miracle. That was one of the things that was a catalyst to my growth. Growing up in the murder capital of Washington, D.C., and having to navigate the drugs and just the darkness — it was such a murky place.
They do say that the lotus is burst from the murkiness of the mud. I’d like to think of myself as the lotus. I’m here, and I’m in my purpose. God saved my life, and I’m just grateful for every moment.