Paso Robles chef competes on ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’

Esther Abobo is the executive chef of Nosh restaurant in Paso Robles.
Esther Abobo is the executive chef of Nosh restaurant in Paso Robles.

When it comes to pizza, Paso Robles chef Esther Abobo is no slouch.

“I’ve done plenty of pizzas in my life. I can probably make a pizza in my sleep,” said Abobo, executive chef at Nosh in Paso Robles.

But when she had to craft the perfect pie in a hurry on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” the Food Network’s notoriously tough cooking competition, the flustered chef froze.

“All my logic went out the window,” acknowledged Abobo, 39, who made her national television debut Sunday on the episode “50 Shades of Sorbet.”

Now in its 11th season, “Cutthroat Kitchen” challenges four chefs to create gourmet dishes for a celebrity judge.

Host Alton Brown gives each contestant $25,000 at the start of the show, then auctions off opportunities for the chefs to sabotage each other or benefit themselves.

“I went in there knowing that the sabotages were going to be insane,” said Abobo.

And she was right.

The Paso Robles chef found herself forced to chop everything using a pizza cutter. In addition, she had to fetch ingredients, prep and cook while driving a mobility scooter disguised as a miniature delivery van — interrupting her labors from time to time to deliver pizzas to Brown.

And Abobo didn’t just have “Cutthroat Kitchen” on her mind. She filmed “50 Shades of Sorbet” just a couple of days before the official launch of her brunch and breakfast restaurant on July 15, 2015.

“I was getting a little anxious. I tried to put (that) on the back burner, but it still played with my head,” said Abobo, who was eliminated in the first round of the competition. (Hawaiian chef Kaimana Chee ultimately won, taking home $17,600.)

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Las Vegas who’s been cooking for about 22 years, Abobo ran Divine Eatery in Las Vegas for a year and a half before moving to the Central Coast in the summer.

“I love the fact that I’m in a small town,” she said. “Everybody’s cool. Everybody’s polite.”

Although she enjoys the slower pace of life in Paso Robles, Abobo said she thrives on the high-energy nature of the restaurant industry.

“I actually look forward to it,” she said, adding that she’s happiest “when it’s extremely busy and you can’t breathe and you want to poke your eyes out at the end of the day.”

That’s why she’s eager to test her mettle on another cooking competition show, such as “Chopped” or “Hell’s Kitchen.”

“I want a rematch,” the chef declared. “I’m up for any competition. I like that pressure, that sink-or-swim thing.”

Abobo is the second Paso Robles chef to compete on “Cutthroat Kitchen” in recent years.

Kelly Wangard, executive chef and inn manager at SummerWood Winery & Inn in Paso Robles, won $6,900 after appearing in an episode that aired Oct. 26, 2014.