It might be hard to imagine creating an hour-long show about cooking that could be more engaging than Chopped. This Food Network show premiered in January 2009 with host Ted Allen and a short-list of culinary greats as regular judges.
Alex Guarnaschelli, Geoffrey Zakarian, Marc Murphy, Amanda Freitag, Aarón Sanchez, Chris Santos, and Scott Conant led the way and are still viewer favorite judges. Chopped was even added to the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012 for its contribution to cuisine.
Like so many other non-fiction shows, Chopped eventually wins you over with its predictable unpredictability. The format makes it easy to put yourself in the contestants’ shoes and shout your own ideas at the television. It’s similar to the thrill that viewers of House Hunters have when criticizing the methods others use for purchasing a new home. “No! Don’t pick house number three! It’s the worst location!” Similarly, regular Chopped viewers begin to learn the methods that lead to winning dishes.
Chopped is a fairly simple game – a basket is presented with four mystery ingredients for three rounds. Each of the ingredients must be present in the course, but doesn’t always mean immediate elimination if one is forgotten! The first round of four contestants is an appetizer course that must be completed in 20 minutes. It’s also the first opportunity to see how each chef is going to perform under the pressure. After the first few minutes, it’s hard to resist making predictions about who might win not only the round, but the entire meal.
Reasons to watch certainly include the brilliant culinary experimentation displayed by the contestants. Seeing a chef create a main course in 30 minutes using things like gummy bears, leftover lasagna, and mysterious meat is endlessly entertaining.
But it’s also really fun to participate as a viewer by making predictions and dreaming up your own ideas. Many viewers feel they have learned many cooking lessons by watching the show. Certainly there are some crazy ingredients and general cooking techniques are often discussed and criticized.
When it’s down to two final contestants, they have 30 minutes to prepare dessert using undoubtedly bizarre ingredients. The judges use all three rounds to select the Chopped champion and give a brief explanation for their choice.
Perhaps the best reason to watch Chopped is for the practical application. It is possible to develop a better understanding of how foods pair to create unique flavors. When scrounging around your own kitchen, you may find yourself better able to understand when to use an acid to balance sugary foods, and when a crunchy element can make a meal come together!
You’ll also probably really wish you had your own ice cream machine, but until then, just keep living vicariously through the Chopped kitchen.