Peter McQuaid is not only the executive chef at CALA Scottsdale but a three-time Chopped champion and most recently, Chopped grand champion in Food Network's Chopped Spin it to Win it tournament. McQuaid has also showcased his skills on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay and was a finalist on Cooking Channel's Battle of the Decades.

He’s known for his culinary creativity and enticing recipes.

Prior to CALA, McQuaid’s roles included executive chef at Money, Baby! in Las Vegas, executive sous chef at Forest Highlands Country Club in Flagstaff, and sous chef at Elements at the Sanctuary Resort on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley.

Oh—and he’s won a James Beard Foundation Taste America Award.

Here, he dishes on Chopped, the one thing he did that no one else has yet, and more.

Ok, first off—you just won Chopped: Spin it to Win It! Congratulations! Tell us what surprised you most about the competition.
Ooh, what surprised me most about this Chopped tournament? Well, a few things. Chopped has never done a tournament anything like Spin it to Win it and it was wild. All
16 chefs walked into the kitchen to see a giant wheel with all our names on it. We then spun to decide which four chefs would compete in week one. But the kicker was once you got
into the kitchen and the wheel picked you, you had to stay in and couldn't get chopped to make it to the jackpot. So, the wheel spun me in week three, and I had to win three "episodes" back-to-back to win the jackpot. Nine rounds of Chopped in a row, which is something nobody has done before in the Chopped kitchen! Then, the baskets! Wow, were they crazy? We were only given three ingredients, and we spun for the fourth ingredient, so it was totally random and really made you think on the fly.

Most difficult moment on the show?
My most difficult moment on the show? I mean, each basket is completely different, and you're against the clock, so there isn't really a time that isn't difficult. But I will say,
my dessert in week three was tough. That ice cream machine got me and really tripped me up. I thought I was gonna be chopped and was really nervous, but thankfully, my first two
dishes really pushed me through.

Favorite moment?
My favorite moment was really meeting all the other chef competitors. I have made some lifelong friends, and that's really special. Also, just being there and cooking for the
judges was crazy and an amazing feeling. I watched Chopped as a kid and looked up to these chefs as an aspiring chef, and to be on that stage with them is incredible. I also
got to share some of my story and talk about my fiancée, Brittnye, which was really special. And the winning—I still don't believe it, but such a cool moment to be in.

You took home $72,500 in winnings. Any fun plans for the money?
I took home $72,500, which I still can't wrap my head around. We are looking to buy a house soon and have some exciting things happening in life. So, that money will go a
long way to making those a reality.

Peter McQuaid
So, what drew you to become a chef to begin with?
I always loved cooking at home and seeing my family in the kitchen. I really just fell in love with food and have never looked back.

You’re over at CALA. What do you like most about the property?
I love Cala because it's fun, and energetic, there's always something going on, and we have an amazing team. It definitely is a fun place to be at!

Favorite dish there?
That's hard, I have a lot of favorites. I am really loving our braised lamb shank right now with tamarind and honey. Also, I always love seeing people dig into our giant meatball.

Favorite dish to make at home?
When I'm at home, I love simple yet elevated cooking. I love to roast a whole chicken, with a cheesy potato gratin and a simple salad with fresh produce from the market and
a homemade mustardy vinaigrette. I'm good!

Any mentors?
I wouldn't be anywhere without the mentors in my life. On a professional side, there are so many amazing chefs who have impacted my life, but to name the ones who really
helped shape my career: Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, Chef Beau MacMillan, and Chef Eddie Matney. I worked for each of them in my career and still work with Chef Beau Mac every day. I would not be here today without all their support, advice, and mentorship.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
You know, I have never thought too much ahead in my life. I have taken my career in strides and have had amazing opportunities in life. I have just really taken my career
naturally. I have never had a five-year or 10-year plan because I think visions change and as a chef, we are constantly evolving. I loved being on Chopped and on that stage, so
hopefully more of that to come, and I hope to have fun with a few more restaurant concepts. I have big dreams and am focusing on making them happen.

One thing we’d be surprised to know about you?
One thing someone would be surprised to know about me? Maybe I used to do martial arts when I was younger and trained under Master McGowan, who has an
amazing gym called Chandler MMA. Although I don't train or practice anymore, their motto is "to quit does not exist," and I remember that every day. I think the discipline and
respect I learned there translated right into my career as a chef and really helped me stay strong in kitchen brigades.

Peter McQuaid