The Truth About Leilani Baugh From Chopped: Alton's Maniacal Baskets

Could it be that all this time, beneath Alton Brown's intellectual foodie façade, there's always been a bit of a madman? Perhaps his new show, "Alton's Maniacal Baskets" will allow him to exorcise this alter ego.

The show, which premiered June 22, has Alton Brown joining the Food Network's popular show "Chopped." For a this special, five-part "Maniacal Baskets" tournament, the challenging "Chopped" baskets are taken to the extreme. Gone are the ingredients that are somewhat compatible and can, with a little talent and creativity, come together to make something tasty, or at least edible. On the first episode of "Maniacal Baskets," the competitors got bean sprouts, eggs, a whole spinach lasagna, and canned chicken.

But why? On its website, the Food Network explains that Brown crowdsourced the ideas for the baskets, and his equally maniacal fans responded with ingredients that were purposefully nightmarish. Because truly challenging the contestants on a food competition show is part of the fun.

Among the cooks who might be getting more than they bargained for is Leilani Baugh of Oakland, California. She's a successful chef and entrepreneur and owner of Roux and Vine Catering and Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen. Before she landed some of the Bay Area's most prestigious catering gigs and launched her restaurant, however, Leilani was lovingly raised by her two grandmothers, who influenced her cooking and set the stage for her success.

Her grandmothers inspired her fusion cooking style

Leilani's grandmothers came from very different backgrounds, but found common ground in their love of Leila, according to Cuisine Noir. Baugh says that grandmother Joan Young was from China, while grandmother Willie Mae Bush is an African American woman who grew up in the South. The two forged a friendship over years of dropping off Leilani at each others' homes. (Leilani lived with Willie Mae during the week, and with Joan on weekends.) The friendship wouldn't be too surprising but for the fact that the grandmas never spoke the same language. Joan spoke only Cantonese, and Willie Mae, English.

They also bonded over food. Leila says Willie Mae would bring dishes — a cake or a sweet potato pie — to Joan's house, and Joan reciprocated with dishes like fish cooked with Chinese greens. "In the exchange of me, they were able to forge this amazing, unspoken friendship," Leilani recalled.

The grandmas' cooking — Leilani describes their styles as Southern and Cantonese comfort foods — influences a lot of what she offers her guests and catering clients. She describes her own cooking style as "Casian," combining the best of Cajun, Southern, and Asian cooking into creative dishes, such as garlic crab with pan-fried Asian noodles and topped with Cajun prawns.

Will Leilani's fusion expertise help her dominate in Round 4 of "Alton's Maniacal baskets?" We'll have to watch and see.