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Verona Resident Wins Premiere Episode of 'Cook Your Ass Off'

Ariane Duarte of CulinAriane in Montclair impresses judges with her version of classic comfort food.

Verona residents Ariane and Michael Duarte own CulinAriane in Montclair.
Verona residents Ariane and Michael Duarte own CulinAriane in Montclair.
Top Chef Season 5 contestant Ariane Duarte of Montclair's CulinAriane is known for her seafood and simple dishes prepared with seasonal ingredients. 

The Verona resident also makes a mean grilled cheese.

Duarte emerged the winner on the premiere episode of HLN's Cook Your Ass Off Sunday night with her rendition of the classic comfort food, as well as a healthier take on the Indian samosa and a fried rice-style dish starring quinoa.

The cable network's new cooking competition, from the producers of Chopped, challenges chefs to create healthier versions of a special guest's favorite dishes.

On Sunday night's premiere, "Stop Carbing", Duarte and two other competitors helped a vegetarian with Lyme disease cook more nutritiously for herself and her son.

Duarte's smoky pear grilled cheese with fresh tomato soup wowed the judges in Round 2 of the timed cook-off. 

"On the surface I looked at this and thought, 'Boring,'", said judge Nate Appleman, "and then I saw the kale inside, and then I tasted the smoked cheese ... and there is nothing boring about this."

Appleman told the mother of two, "I can tell that you're a mom because you snuck in kale without really knowing."

In Round 1, Duarte gives samosas a makeover, reducing refined carbs with an Indian-inspired quesadilla stuffed with vegetables and paired with a yogurt sauce. 

As the winner of the first round of the competition, Duarte got to choose one of three "twist" ingredients her opponents had to use in the grilled-cheese round.

Her choice? Ostrich eggs.

"I think this will trip them up a little bit," she said.

Indeed, one chef gets sent home and Duarte moves on to Round 3 to create an "ideal meal" using garbanzo beans and kohlrabi. 

Duarte gets the hat trick — and a chance at the $50,000 grand prize — by taking the rice out of fried rice and substituting it with quinoa.

Cook Your Ass Off airs on Sundays, at 7 p.m. EST, on HLN.

Cook like Ariane Duarte at home. Get the Smoky Pear Grilled Cheese and other recipese.

Erika Desimone contributed to this article.

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