NU Chef Masters Cutthroat Kitchen

A Niagara University student has leveraged a self-professed social media addiction into a victory on one of television’s most popular competitive cooking shows.

Cody Candelario, a senior majoring in luxury hospitality operations, topped three seasoned cooking professionals on the July 26 episode of the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen. Among the competitors Cody defeated was Chef Plum (Kristopher Plummer), who has been featured on multiple Food Network shows and ABC’s The Taste.

Hearing his name called by host Alton Brown and judge Jet Tila concluded a 16-hour day of filming for Cody, who said his burgeoning culinary skills helped him overcome the “sabotage” attempts thrust upon him by the other contestants, such as being forced to manipulate giant chopsticks to prepare a beef and broccoli dish and use ceviche marinade in his key lime pie.

For his efforts, Cody took home close to $14,000.

“I was exhausted — mentally and physically — but I knew I had won,” Cody wrote via email. “Winning brought on a wave of validation for the time I’ve spent trying to learn this craft. In my eyes, it made all the years that I’ve been overlooked and underestimated because of my age disappear.

“I’m using this win, this money, and this recognition I earned to travel, increase my knowledge, and hone this passion I have for cooking.”

The campaign to become a Food Network star began when Cody started working at Carmelo’s, a restaurant in Lewiston, N.Y. As he started posting photos on Instagram to capture his culinary creations, others began to notice.

In just a few months, Cody had developed connections with chefs, promoters, and cooking labels. Soon, a casting agent for the Food Network contacted him. In mid-December, Cody learned he made the cut for Cutthroat Kitchen.

The show features four chefs who are given $25,000 to spend on items that either assist in their own preparation or sabotage the efforts of their opponents. After each cooking challenge is presented, the chefs have 60 seconds to gather ingredients from the pantry and regroup for an auction to bid on culinary curve balls, such as the exclusive use of an ingredient or not allowing opponents to taste dishes. A chef is eliminated after each of the three rounds, and the last competitor standing wins the money left in his or her personal bank.

The victory will certainly bolster the résumé of the 22-year-old chef, a native of Healdsburg, Calif., who spent the summer interning at the Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio, Italy, and is completing his senior year in Niagara’s dual-degree program with the International University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef, Germany. But Cody prefers to keep his career options open, listing food truck owner, restaurateur, hotel owner, sommelier, Food Network judge, and even rock star as career aspirations. But his ultimate goal?

“I want to be happy,” he says.

Follow Cody on Instagram at http://instagram.com/coops_deville.