The Truth About Keesha O'Galdez From Chopped: Alton's Maniacal Baskets

The popular show "Chopped" has a new edition called "Alton's Maniacal Baskets" (premiering June 22) that promises to take viewers on a wild ride as they watch talented participants go through a series of unexpected challenges and even more bizarre ingredients to use to prepare the three rounds of appetizer, entree, and dessert. Of course, this time around, celebrity chef and host Alton Brown designs unbelievably difficult tasks for the participants that make for great TV watching.

One of the contestants on the show is chef Keesha O'Galdez from New York City. Per her official website, O'Galdez is an entrepreneur as well as a chef specializing in healthy natural foods. Interestingly, she didn't always want to be a chef and was originally part of the corporate world, but was forced to reconsider her path after being laid off from her job in 2009. She wrote, "I didn't want to go back to a traditional job, I wanted to fuel my passion for entrepreneurship, cooking, empowerment, curiosity, and connecting to others." 

O'Galdez is very focused on healthy eating

Calling herself The Gourmet Diva, chef Keesha O'Galdez focuses on healthy eating and making the most out of mealtimes to nourish bodies. She says she often spoke to her friends about the difficulties they were facing in terms of staying healthy and focusing on meal-prepping while balancing hectic schedules, which inspired her culinary path.

As she says on her website, "It wasn't until my late 20s and 30s where my views on how people ate and took care of themselves was challenged. I witnessed how my colleagues would rush around and grab anything to eat and drink, never thinking about what they were putting into their mouths. It didn't seem to occur to them to eat wholesome, home-cooked foods or how eating with [their] bad habits ... was contributing to things like weight gain, lack of energy, poor sleep and difficulty in concentrating."

For O'Galdez, focusing on homemade meals with hearty ingredients is her specialty. It has roots in her experiences as a child when she was expected to help out with meals at home. Her parents were juggling demanding jobs and relied on their daughter to come up with simple dinners every evening. O'Galdez notes she learned how to cook through "trial and error" of reading recipes on food boxes and collecting even more from the newspaper.

Eventually, the budding chef trained at the National Gourmet Institute of Culinary Arts with a focus on organic, vegetarian, vegan and other healthy dishes. In addition to her upcoming appearance on "Chopped: Alton's Maniacal Baskets," O'Galdez has appeared several times on Epicurious' 50 Person Prep challenge web series.