Last week, Chicago-based Sister Alicia Torres, a soft-spoken member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist, took first place on the Food Network cooking competition “Chopped.”
Torres, competing on a special Thanksgiving-themed episode of the popular show, won $10,000 for her take on a traditional Thanksgiving feast. In one challenge, she made turkey quesadillas and, in another, a green bean pancake with a maple cranberry sauce.
The 30-year-old nun and chef, who cooks meals for her church’s soup kitchen, intends to donate her winnings to help feed her Chicago community, Humboldt Park.
“I wanted to [compete on the show] for Jesus: to be a witness to how fulfilling a life dedicated to God can be,” Torres told The Daily Signal via email. “Our vocation as religious is to live a life of prayer, witness, and service—being on ‘Chopped’ certainly gives a great opportunity to share that message with the world.”
Torres wound up on the show, which featured three other soup kitchen chefs, after the Food Network announced they were looking to showcase religious sisters on the episode.
“I heard about [the show] and told my superior that I thought I had a good chance,” Torres wrote. “He gave me permission to apply, and I went through the application and interview process as any other potential competing chef would.”
While Torres says she “never imagined” she would wind up on reality television, she is no stranger to the kitchen. She says that she began cooking as a young teenager and that the importance of family meals was always reinforced in her home growing up.
Torres says she was nervous in the days leading up to the competition but was confident in her abilities as the showdown began.
“When the day arrived I was not nervous at all,” she explained. “My religious community and some close friends were praying for me, and I am confident in the power of prayer!”
By Torres’ estimation, she regularly cooks for anywhere between eight and 600 people at her church, Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, on Chicago’s West Side.
“I am a naturally creative person, so cooking is a way I’ve really expressed that as a religious sister,” Torres told The Daily Signal. “We don’t always know what food is going to come in [to the soup kitchen], so the ability to be flexible and creative has really stretched me to expand my cooking horizons and think outside the box when it comes to preparing delicious, healthy meals.”
“Not only is [cooking] an opportunity to be artistic, but even more importantly, to show our deep gratitude to God and our benefactors for their generosity that sustains our life and work,” Torres added.
Sister Alicia plans to prepare breakfast at her church for 600 homeless or hungry guests on Thanksgiving Day.