The passion for food and friendship was engrained in Pasadena resident Lidia Haddadian when she was a child living in Brazil.
“I love feeding people,” said Haddadian, who now lives in Pasadena. “It gives me a lot of joy.”
Haddadian has parlayed that joy into a winning recipe. The home chef is a two-time champion in the World Food Championships and she’s in the finals again in Indianapolis, where nine other champions navigated three cooking challenges in their quest to earn the biggest title in “food sport,” along with a $100,000 grand prize.
The winner of “Final Table: Indy” will be unveiled on Saturday, October 3, on The Cooking Channel’s show of the same name. (Check local listings.) The one-hour docu-series highlights the competitors’ food sport journey and captures the multiday competition as the aspiring chefs face off in Indiana-specific challenges.
The 10 competitors won their spot to compete at the “Final Table: Indy” event by emerging from WFC’s 2019 Main Event, where they beat out almost 500 teams to become the champion of their category. Each champion won a $10,000 grand prize and a new culinary title to their repertoire. In August, they reconvened at Indy’s Ivy Tech Culinary Center to battle three more times, only this time there was a lot more money up for grabs.
Other competitors are Jodi Taffel, 2019 Bacon World Champion from Altadena; Matthew Statham, 2019 World Chef Champion from Fultondale, Alabama; Morgan Cheek, 2019 World Burger Champion from Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Ryan Hegland, 2019 World Steak Champion from Lakeville, Minnesota; Josh Cooper, 2019 World Seafood Champion from Tallahassee, Florida; Kelli Fairchild-Cochran, two-time Sandwich Champion (2019, 2014) from Merced; Evette Rahman, two-time Dessert Champion (2019, 2016) from Orlando; Rocky Julianelle, 2019 World Open Chili Champion from East Haven, Connecticut and Ryan Murphy, 2019 World Barbecue Champion from Kansas City.
Before Haddadian’s debut at the “Final Table: Indy,” she competed in Food Sport events for 10 years winning about $83,000 in prizes over the years.
For her challenges, Haddadian made sweet and spicy stick baby back ribs with Asian flair, and sesame miso gnocchi with cucumber salad; an Asian roasted duck with fried wild rice.
“I love barbecuing—more like Mediterranean-style barbecue,” she said. “I like to marine different cuts of meat or chicken. I love grilling. It really relaxes me. I feel like outdoor cooking for me is on the top of my cooking preferences.
“I do enjoy being in the kitchen, obviously. I do make a lot of sweet, Mediterranean desserts. We usually have a dessert for dinner.”
For the third challenge, Haddadian had to make her own sugar cream pie, which is the Indiana state pie. She incorporated several elements, including phyllo dough, cherry coulis, pistachio praline and rose kiss Chantilly, the latter of which is whip cream with a rose flavor.
“I wanted to be myself and show my background,” she said. “I’m Armenian, but I grew up in Brazil. I made a pistachio rose sugar cream pie. I wanted the textures and flavors to pop in everybody’s mouth. It was a really great dessert. My family liked it a lot.”
Haddadian honed her cooking skills by watching her grandmother cook in Brazil.
“I saw basically that was the way they showed their love for us,” she said. “It was engrained in my heart. That was the way I wanted to show my love for others. The passion was there as a child.
“I didn’t really have too many opportunities to cook at home when I was living with my parents in Brazil. My grandmothers didn’t allow me in the kitchen. Once I had to lock them out and I made dinner.”
Haddadian’s cooking journey officially began when she moved to the United States and married her husband. For 33 years, she has been cooking for family and friends.
“I never realized how much cooking was a part of my life until about six years ago when I started competing,” Haddadian said. “I’ve been cooking with all my heart since then.”
“Final Table: Indy”