By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Mar 29, 2023 at 7:06 PM

Season 55 of Food Network’s popular reality cooking show “Chopped” kicks off on Tuesday, April 4 at 7 p.m. CST with an episode you won’t want to miss.

That’s because Ashley Turner, executive chef and culinary director for Hacienda Taproom & Kitchen, 2018 E North Ave., is competing for the win in the “Fry of the Beholder” episode.

During the episode, hosted by Ted Allen, Turner will face off against three other chefs –  including fellow Texan Chef Alejandro Barrientos of Curb Side Bistro – to get through three rounds of mystery basket challenges. The goal? To use the often unusual combinations of ingredients to make delicious plates that will impress "Chopped" judges Eric Adjepong, Scott Conant and Amanda Freitag.

The catch for this episode? In every round they must use a deep fryer or air fryer to create deliciously crispy creations.

But will Chef Turner win? Or will she be fried by the competition? 

Ashley Turner on Chopped
Chef Ashley Turner (Photo: Food Network)

Find out at the official watch party

Fans and food lovers are invited to find out at Hacienda’s “Chopped” viewing party, which will take place on April 4 from 4 to 9 p.m.

During the event, guests can enjoy music from all-vinyl DJ Todd Loferski, sample dishes inspired by the show and watch along with the crowd to see if Chef Turner’s fried creations impress the judges enough to score her the win.

Guest can also bid to win a private four-course beer dinner for up to 10 people at Hacienda. All proceeds will benefit the American Culinary Federation’s Kids Culinary Summer Camp, a program for aspiring chefs age 7-17.

Turner’s Take

Turner, a BBQ-centric culinary expert, made her way to Milwaukee via Texas. Last February, she joined the team at Hacienda with a smoker in tow. Ultimately, she’s helped to reimagine the menu at the North Avenue hotspot by introducing East Side food and beer lovers to her soul-filled Texicana-inspired fare. [Listen to Turner tell her story on the FoodCrush Podcast].

She says she never really aspired to being featured on a reality cooking show. But when she was approached by folks doing a casting call last spring, she decided to give it a whirl.

As for her experience on the show? She says it was definitely challenging.

“What the show does very well is it takes the baseline – the challenges that we face in the kitchen every day – and turns it up to a level you usually don’t have to deal with,” she says. “And they don’t fluff it up much. 

“By and large, you’re opening a box, taking a few minutes to think and then you’re off and running. Time is definitely the biggest challenge. And there are a lot of things that can derail you along the way.”

She says that, in addition to time constraints, one of the most challenging parts of the competition was going head to head with another fellow Texan.

“It was crazy that the two of us both ended up on the show,” she says. “Our cooking styles are very similar, and that made it so fun, but also very challenging. At the end of the day, I made fast friends with Alejandro [Barrientos]. He’s a good human and he was doing good work, and that was really awesome.”

But would she do it all over again? Maybe.

“It was a cool experience,” she says. “It was great to represent Milwaukee and be able to talk about my own personal journey. It was great to lean in and just have fun with it.”

As for the restults, Turner isn’t giving away any secrets. When we asked her who won, her response was friendly, but guarded.

“I can’t tell you that!" she laughs. "You'll just have to watch... Let’s just say I made a tasty ‘every person’ type meal that we’ll sample during the viewing party.”

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.