Chopped Champion! Chef McKenna Shea of Maui wins with Abalone on Food Network
Maui Chef McKenna Shea of Pacificʻo on the Beach was crowned the champion of Food Network’s Chopped Tuesday night. She won the episode entitled “A Bunch of Abalone!” and took home the $10,000 top prize.
She was one of four chefs who competed to win over the judges through a series of challenges with her innovative culinary skills.
To celebrate Chef Shea’s win, Pacific’o on the Beach is offering a special Chopped-inspired Fried Abalone dish available for one month only, through April 15. The dish is made with Kula watercress, crunchy radicchio, and veggie chip breaded Big Island abalone, on top of an ube nicoise vinaigrette.
“After the initial shock wore off from seeing the abalone and ube cheesecake, I knew a salad was the way to go to highlight all the flavors and textures in basket number one,” said Shea. “I had never worked with abalone before, shoot, I had never even seen abalone in real life before – but I remember thinking to myself, ‘what would Isaac Bancacao do’ who is my current chef and mentor.”
In 2019, Shea joined Pacific’o on the Beach as their youngest leading female chef and soon became Sous Chef in 2020. Shea now holds the title of Executive Sous Chef and with the mentorship of Executive Chef Isaac Bancaco, she expanded her horizon in Hawaiian cuisine and fresh seafood, co-creating dishes with locally-sourced ingredients for an evolving and innovative menu.
Shea also specializes in incorporating sustainable practices, supporting local farms and using every ingredient to its full potential, helping to put Pacific’o on the map for farm-to-table dining experiences.
“The judges loved my dish and two of them finished the whole salad even after the judging was over,” said Shea. “This sweet, crispy, crunchy salad began the meal that would ultimately crown me Chopped champion.”
In an earlier phone interview with Maui Now, Chef Shea said if she were to win, she would probably use the money toward a boat. “My boyfriend and I are boat people and would like to start a catering business on a boat where he’s the captain. He’s currently a captain now, so that’s kind of our dream.”
The Season 54, Episode 11: A Bunch of Abalone! re-airs Wednesday, March 15 at 9 p.m. HST / 3 a.m. EST / 2 a.m. CT ; Thursday, March 16, 4 a.m. HST / 10 a.m. EST / 9 a.m. CT; and Tuesday, March 28, 1 p.m. HST / 7 p.m. EST / 6 CT. Network representatives say the air time depends on the provider.
More about Chef Shea’s journey.