"('Chopped') is basically ready, set, cook," said McEachern, who joined Rays on the River in 2007 after the restaurant went through a $6 million renovation.
Raised in Miami, McEachern's specialty is seafood. He started his culinary career at age 16 as a salad prep employee. He met his wife, Dawn, while working as executive chef at the 1848 House in Marietta (formerly owned by her father, former Mayor Bill Dunaway).
McEachern said "Chopped" is a food competition hosted by Ted Allen in which a mystery basket is given to four competing chefs with five to six ingredients that must be incorporated into the dish.
"If you leave one (ingredient) out, you're likely to get chopped," the Marietta resident explained. "It's very nerve-wracking."
Each course of "Chopped" is timed. The chefs compete before three judges and course-by-course a chef is cut from the competition. "Hopefully you don't get chopped after the first course," he said.
"There's always a theme and there's always crazy ingredients," said McEachern, explaining that all chefs have access to a common pantry on a first-come, first-serve basis. The theme of McEachern's competition was grilling and some of the mystery ingredients were mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise.
With this competition, nationally renowned McEachern has one more accolade to add to his long list of accomplishments that include cooking for the James Beard Foundation in New York, awarded to chefs in the nation's top restaurants and hotels; and working with prominent chefs Jean Michel Dumas in Philadelphia, Ed Brown in Manhattan and Jeff Buben in Washington, D.C.
McEachern has worked at The Abbey, City Grill, Trio, Azalea and Horseradish Grill in Atlanta.
"'Chopped' was so much fun. It was so exciting. It was one of those things you were glad you did, but you're glad it's over," McEachern said.
"It's kind of fun to be under that pressure to see how well you can perform under it," he said. "It was definitely worth it. I had a lot of fun."
When asked whether he was saved from the chopping block, McEachern said, "You'll have to tune in and see."
Visit Rays on the River on May 31 to sample some of the dishes he made on the show. For more information on McEachern and the restaurant, visit www.raysontheriver.com.