I haven’t been able to decide if Chopped is a stroke of genius or the worst contest on Food Network. The show makes me distinctly uncomfortable. My conundrum has been this: I do really like the mystery basket concept, because it takes a special talent to think that quickly and some of my favorite dinners were constructed with whatever was left in my fridge. Which I get is the point. The show on occasion is inspiring in the ‘oh, that’s an interesting idea’ kind of way.
Conversely, if the chefs on Top Chef this season are the B-team, then the chefs on Chopped are the kids who always get picked last. For any team. Ever. I did wonder why Food Network has continued to populate the show with chefs so lacking in talent that properly filleting a is far beyond their skill set. Time and time again, peeking through my eye covering fingers, I’ve watched beautiful fishes be butchered into oblivion, as in couldn’t even be used for tartar or ceviche oblivion. Can someone explain to me how someone graduates culinary school without knowing something as basic as that? This past week, I watched not one, not two but all three remaining chefs blow fresh pre-packaged pasta sheets! Seriously? All you have to do is boil water, dust the layers with flour and cut into whatever shape you want. Oh, wait, I forgot the hard part, you have to stir it, and watch it, for the entire 3 minutes it’s cooking. All three chefs served partially cooked pasta, one of them in raw pin wheel form to Scott Conant, (you know, one of most prominent chef’s in the country) whose head I thought was going to explode. I was nervously giggling. That’s when it hit me.
The best part about watching Chopped is watching the panel of established chefs faces while the cooking is going on, knowing that they have to take at least one bite and probably more. I have seen Alex Guarnaschelli poke at more than one dish with her knife and take the tiniest bite possible, while trying not to frown, and Aaron Sanchez sulk when be served tortillas what he knows are going to taste awful because he watched the chef contestants mishandle them. They should spend way more camera time on the wincing, ‘oh, noes’ and head holding the panel does, not to mention the whispers they don’t always let us hear. All of this coupled with the struggle of trying to say something constructive rather than just hurling the plate of slop back at the chef contestant would make truly engaging .
- Scott Conant, red onion fan, hosts and judges Food Network’s new 24 Hour Restaurant Battle (realityblurred.com)
- Ric Orlando to compete on ‘Chopped’ on Tuesday (timesunion.com)
- Iron Chef America Holds First Vegetarian Face-Off (blisstree.com)