Review: Chopped

February 16, 2009 at 1:10 am 8 comments

Several months ago I saw the casting call.  It read something like this, “Now casting, tri-state area chefs to compete in new Food Network cooking contest, Chopped.”  I assumed the gas prices at the time were even effecting the Food Network.  Too bad, the show sounded like fun.

Flash forward to 2009 and Chopped premieres.  It is being hosted by Ted Allen (The Food You Want to Eat, Food Detectives).  Allen is as genuine a person as I have met in this industry and certainly qualified to host a cooking competition.  His mixture of New York dry wit and a Midwesterner’s flair for the understated make for a perfect host.

Now many of my friends and contemporaries have not been complimentary of Chopped preferring Hell’s Kitchen or Top Chef.  Many have even accused Chopped of being nothing more than a cheap rip off of Bravo’s Top Chef.  I, however, prefer it to the other two shows.

My experience with both Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen is there seems to be too much screen time devoted to people yelling or bickering and not enough dedicated to cooking.  I know that I am in the minority when I say this, but I do not like to watch people argue on TV.

I don’t like watching people scream at each other any more than I like having them scream at me.  I think such behavior is boorish and I equate those who do who enjoy watching it to the roaring crowds of the Coliseum, only without the blood thirsty part.  Again, I am in the minority on this thought process – the ratings don’t lie.

I think it is because of this lack of  “drama” that I enjoy Chopped so much.  It gets to the essence of cooking – creativity in the kitchen.  Now for you faithful Romans there are plenty of egos and characters to route for or against each week but at it’s heart Chopped is a cooking competition not a soap opera.  And that’s fine by me.

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8 Comments

  • 1. John  |  February 16, 2009 at 10:50 am

    I agree. I really enjoy Chopped. One thing I like about it over Top Chef is that everyone has to cook using the same set of (sometimes unlikely) ingredients. It really levels the playing field considerably, and keeps the focus more on food than personality.

  • 2. Chef Mark Tafoya  |  February 18, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    Ok, Stuart, I’ll take the bait and be the contrary voice!

    This show is a raw piece of chicken thigh served atop an entire rice cake!

    Now, on last night’s episode, I even KNOW one of the contestants & wanted him to win (Robert Burmeister is a member of my NY Personal Chefs group), but even having someone to root for doesn’t make me like this horrible show.

    In true Food Network fashion, they take a great concept like Top Chef and dumb it down even further, making it seem like they spent $1.49 on production values. Unfortunately, they also take the WORST aspects of Top Chef and make them even worse. Randomly throwing completely unrelated ingredients is not, as they might claim, to inspire the chef’s creativity, but rather, to watch them fail miserably at a ridiculous juxtaposition which would never present itself in real life. Yes, some chefs come up with wildly creative dishes with unusual ingredients, but because they take time & thoughfulness, and because they are INSPIRED by those ingredients. It seems that all these shows are trying to find the most ridiculous groupings of ingredients, and then be haughty with criticism when the chefs don’t come up with great dishes. This is designed to make great TV, not great food. Great TV is about shadenfreude, watching other people fall down and laughing at them, thankful that it’s not us.

    Of course, unlike Top Chef, where the contestants really have the potential to be great chefs, it seems they purposely pick the chefs for their colorful personalities or their quirks and self esteem issues. They clearly encourage them to mug for the camera, or to grind their axes (like the Vegetarian chef).

    And the sad thing about Ted Allen is that he DOES have that “mixture of New York dry wit and a Midwesterner’s flair for the understated”, but it’s nowhere to be found on this show. He recites the rules and the structure of the show like a robot. Who the heck is directing this show????

    AY AY AY!

  • 3. Food Network Challenge « Wannabe TV Chef - Blog  |  February 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    […] damned sure taste sweet.  It appears that I am a food snob.  Oh well, I still have ICA and Chopped to inspire […]

  • 4. Armand Quinto  |  December 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    The judges are so prejudiced. I saw an episode where two chefs were eliminated because they forgot an ingredient. On Dec. 6th episode which was a repeat of an earlier episode the older guy forgot an ingredient and because they didn’t like the younger guy they ignored the lapse of the ingredient and rewarded the older guy; Pure prejudice. I have seen it time and time again. The judges clearly don’t like someone and that person is a goner.. The only other time I have seen this prejudice is on the present top chef. The preset red headed guy always does these simple dishes while the brothers are always sophisticated but that guy either wins or hangs on. Really he won the competition to repressent the US in the international cook off. Like he has any chance of winning.lease, I can cook his dishes at home.

  • 5. Armand Quinto  |  December 6, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    The judges on this program exhibit clear prejudice; For example on one episode the judges eliminated two chefs for forgetting an ingredient. On the episode of the 6th. Dec. which was a repeat the chef forgot an ingredient because the competing chef didn’t allow the forgotten ingredient to be put in and rightly so it was a competition, they turned against him and awaded the prize to the chef who forgot the ingredient. Clearly a prejudice and they were arrogant about it as well. On this show if the jugdes don’t like you you are dead,. This show is not fair it is reidiculous. Also on top chef this season the red head keeps winning and the foor he makes I can make as well in my kitchen. The brothers’ dishes are much more complicated. Please give me a breaK He is going to actually be the representative of the USA in an internation competition? Tell me you all thin he will win.

  • 6. Gedlich, Donna  |  November 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Hi. I’m commenting on Chopped. I used to enjoy it; however, I’m disappointed this season. First off, on the Halloweem episode last week was reallly awful. The judges were rude to the competing chefs; the judges didn’t know some of the menu items, had never seen, cooked and/or discussed the chefs variety of their menu selection to the judges.

    Second, last night’s Chopped had rattlesnake as a menu item. None of the judges had probablly eaten that type of meat and/or ever cooked it. The judges comments to the chefs were behond rude, and condensenting. One of the judges could only comment on the beans.

    I’m asking several things from the producers of the show. I would like Ted Allen to ask each of the judges it they have ever seen, cooked, and eaten all of the items on the menu. Second, I would like to see each of those judges compet with each other; ie., plan, cook, eat, and present their item to an individual who know none of the judges. And, Mr. Allen, do you cook?

    Thank you for your time in reading these comments.

    Dgedlich

  • 7. mike suptic  |  March 28, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Chopped is a farce!! i was a chef for 22 years and cooked for some old time hollywood stars. in the episode with Jacques Torres the judges SUCKED. even though he brought his own ingrediant where does Ted Allen say in the rules EVERY SHOW that that is a no no. well the judges said his food was terrible. BUT the lady chef did NOT EVEN FINISH THE CHALLENGE!! in other episodes that was an automatic out if if other dishes were terrible too. rules need to be stated more clear!!!! also in that episode with Arron Sanches that was just a farce!! did you watch it???? Judges just gushing over ANOTHER JUDGES DISHES AND HIM WINNING!!! well just like Happy Days and the Fonzie, Chopped has JUMPED THE SHARK and is now a total sham. have some integrity and at least get judges who are not regulars and think that they are just the best that anyone can ever be with their attitudes. WHO IN YOUR ORGANIZATION WATCHES THIS AND DOES NOT GET IT!!

    • 8. wannabetvchef  |  March 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

      Dude, it’s for charity. Chill out.


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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