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.
Producers Make Things Seem Extra Dramatic
Producers often try provoking the contestants. Allegedly, Chopped execs attempt to raise the stakes by goading competitors into trash-talking one another. Contestant Josh Lewis said he refused to take part in such fakery.
Chef Allison Robicelli, meanwhile, acknowledged the entertainment factor, but didn't fault producers:
It might not be the popular choice, or the one that gets the highest ratings, but I’d much rather try to get attention by making people laugh than by hurting others in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator... I stand by that choice.
Chefs Can Hide Ingredients
Each Chopped contestant receives a well-stocked pantry loaded with familiar ingredients. They can even look through the pantry inventory beforehand, but producers sometimes change the items between rounds. Sneaky chefs can gain an edge during this time, though, as the show rules allow them to hide ingredients from other contestants.
In a kitchen only stocked with one jar of each spice and seasoning, this kind of craftiness can throw a wrench in someone's plans.
Producers Closely Watch Contestants
During any given filming day, producers monitor all contestants closely and take notes; they want to make the interview segments more interesting. After observing contestants and writing down every failure and muttered aside, Chopped execs question contests.
Contestant John Lewis remembered being "shocked by how much they wrote down and asked me about. They had stuff that I hadn't even realized happened while filming."
Ted Allen Stands The Entire Time
Ted Allen is Chopped's levelheaded host, benevolent taskmaster, and eagle-eyed timekeeper. He introduces the judges and contestants, reveals the ingredients, keeps the chefs focused, and announces the losers.
To make his job description even crazier, Allen can't sit down at all during filming. The producers want him standing the entire time. In an interview with Food Network, Allen revealed:
I’ve asked [to sit]; they said no. I don’t know why they’re obsessed with making me stand up all the time. Maybe it’s kind of like exercise. Yet people in New York City pay good money to exercise, and they have to pay me to do it.