Since its 2007 debut, Chopped has rocked the Food Network airwaves. A deceptively simple cooking competition, it features four chefs battling to take home $10,000. The show remains especially challenging as each competitor must incorporate a random basket of weird ingredients into their culinary concoctions.
A typical assortment might include purple asparagus, licorice candy, heavy cream, and a pig's head. Chopped's baskets are like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates: contestants never know what they're going to get. Therein lies the adventure.
While the show hardly counts as horrible reality TV, Chopped is incredibly interesting behind the scenes.
It looks like each judge enjoys a fresh, piping hot plate. But given the natural constraints of filming a television show, food doesn't always get served immediately. For them to try the dish before it congeals, falls apart, or goes cold, judges receive an early taste.
When the timer sounds, the judges visit each station and sample without disturbing the presentation. They may check for thorough cooking or appropriate texture. Contestants, though, don't get penalized for unplanned time delays.
It’s actually really hard [to pick a winner]. It’s not just, "Well, he won Round 1, and she won Round 2, and then she won Round 3, so she wins." It’s not that simple...
We break it down: who used each ingredient in each round the best? Who left a mystery basket ingredient off the plate? If someone left an ingredient off the plate, did somebody else do something even worse? It’s actually really complicated. So sometimes it takes a while, but... we have to make sure that the right person wins.
Chopped takes a little dramatic license to build tension and make better television. For instance, they blindside chefs with the mystery baskets. The contestants, however, do receive a few advantages. Someone preps the kitchens, pre-heats the ovens, and boils water.
Occasionally, chefs even feign their aired reactions, as producers require several takes for certain moments.
Chopped judges eat and critique each dish, and sometimes they seem incredibly harsh. But Ted Allen and the judges insist the show makes them appear much worse. Judge Amanda Freitag said, "I get totally edited... I'm funny behind the scenes... I have to be a judge; I have to be intimidating and serious."
Allen echoed Freitag's sentiment, sharing, "The judges and I tell very risque jokes, but you don't see it because Food Network is very G-rated."