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I have started to watch these and now they have Chopped Champions.

Is it really the mark of a good chef/cook who can whip up a 3 course meal with such odd ingredients which don't go together and are included just because - desserts with pickles, tortilla chips, entrees with white chocolate chips, sugary breakfast cereals?

what do you all think?

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  1. Reality cooking shows -- be it Chopped or Top Chef -- is really about chefs who are able to cook and think on their feet. Not necessarily who the best chef is, per se.

    Lots of chefs can cook extraordinarily, but wouldn't be able to think quickly enough on their feet to improvise and make a competent dish with 1 out of 4 ingredients that do not match -- naturally -- with the other 3. (I mean, seriously, pickles in your dessert basket along with fruit loops, etc.?)

    1. Ahhh but those corn meal coated sweetbreads looked succulent.

      1. It is entertaining to watch and my husband and I talk about what we would make. I wonder how much sweat and blood is in the food considering the preponderance for cutting fingers.

        1. I like it, it's definitely made me thinking about certain ingredients in different ways.

          1. The bizarre combination of ingedients makes this show less interesting for me. I think the competitors are fierce, but the whole competition is kind of silly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jeanmarieok

              I agree, I would find it much more enjoyable if they wouldnt get a "weird" item or two in the basket. If the baskets were filled with delicious items that at least made a little bit of sense the show would be much more interesting to me. Watching people try to create a dish out of vienna sausages, truffles, and gummy bears does not do it for me.

            2. Am I the only one who thinks that Chopped screws with the contestants and randomly turns down burners and ovens?
              Almost every episode, someone goes to fry something and the oil isn't even shimmering (which begs the question-don't they check the oil temp before ruining their food and making it greasy?)

              2 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                I've definitely had that thought about oven temps, etc.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Yeah, the ovens on chopped seem to invariably suck! What gives? lol

              2. The new Chopped last night, April 19, was the worst one I've seen yet.
                One person cross contaminated her work area with her game hens.
                Another had an entree the size of an appetizer.
                One person didn't cook the game hens long enough so couldn't be eaten.
                The person that won, in my opinion, won by default.
                Are they scrapping the bottom of the barrel for talented chefs nowadays?

                9 Replies
                1. re: iL Divo

                  In the real world of cooking,it's called the black box test.Many chefs,restaurants will hand a box of random ingredients(not as bizarre as the ones on chopped) to the potential employee,give them a certain amount of time and let them create something.It's a great way to judge ones creativity and ability to think on their feet. Chopped is one of the few "cooking challenge" shows I watch regularly.

                  1. re: iL Divo

                    How would you have prepared the game hens in 30 minutes?

                    Often posters complain about the judges being too mean, saying nasty things about the foods, finding little things to fault, and giving the contestants dirty looks. But you never hear the judges describe the contestants as 'the bottom of the barrel'. :)

                    1. re: paulj

                      "How would you have prepared the game hens in 30 minutes"? < I wouldn't have. I don't care for game hens. I don't cook things I don't like.
                      My comment meant what I said. I stand by my comment and will say it again.
                      Yes, the basket was hard. Why is it that it's so awful to say what one is thinking paulj?

                      1. re: paulj

                        Actually, I think the judges do a really great job of almost always saying something nice about each dish before they say what didn't work about it. The "dirty looks" are more likely a function of direction and editing than anything spontaneous.

                        1. re: paulj

                          I would have deep fried the breasts and legs and served them up crispy. ;D

                          1. re: paulj

                            Only in response to the first question you posited, I'd have spatchcocked them and figured out a way to weight them down, for pan-sauteeing al mattone.

                          2. re: iL Divo

                            Ahhh, I watched that episode! And the one who cross-contaminated kept crying about her sister. It became such a mess.

                            1. re: Jadore

                              I get irritated with the obvious sympathy bids too.
                              It's not a lack of compassion for the bereaved at all, and granted: the death of a loved one will surely put you off your game. I will say that in context though, ALL the contestants are kinda goin' through it, even without the additional pain and stress of a death in the family. And everyone is going through something on a personal level that we know nothing about, so to constantly re-iterate how badly this affected their cooking just seems like a way of saying, "I'm cooking REALLY badly, and this is why..." but offering an excuse, however valid, for why.

                              1. re: mamachef

                                I wish they would keep the personal stuff out of all these cooking competitions which are one off. I mind a bit less when it's a series that lasts over a few weeks but I could care less about a contestant I'll never likely hear from again. Everybody works to help their families it's just a yawn to hear about it from these competitors.

                          3. I love how chopped masters donates it's prizes to charity...I think it's such a fantastic premise...plus its fun!

                            1. Actually, I really like the inclusion of obscure ingredients-it is one of the main reasons I watch the show. I learn a new ingredient with virtually every episode or see how to clean or prepare something new (who knew cherimoya seeds were bad for you to eat?).

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: LRunkle

                                Agreed. If it weren't for the bizarre mystery ingredient,it wouldn't be much of a challenge.

                                1. re: petek

                                  I just would prefer odd ingredients that are *food* rather than fruit loops or gummy bears. I have no problem with ingredients that don't normally "go together"; that is interesting.

                                  1. re: DGresh

                                    Who says fruit loops and gummy bears aren't food?? :-D

                                    1. re: petek

                                      Haha! They technically are!

                                      I seriously love this show. It amazes me some of these people go on the show and then are shocked over the ingredients or the time constraint! Or a chef that cannot filet a fish! The best chef on this show was Madison... he won the regular show and then the Chopped Champions.

                              2. I like Chopped because I always wonder what I would do if confronted with the sometimes weird variety of foods presented in the baskets. If the chefs survive, I don't know if they're 'good' cooks, so much as they are creative and quick to think on their feet, and that's good enough for me.

                                Also, I've learned of a few more ingredients I'd never heard before, thanks to Chopped! I never knew chayotes, cherimoya, fregula, geoducks, Buddha's hand, dulce de membrillo, etc existed before I watched the show, and for that I'm grateful. (Because I like to learn!) I think they have a cool blend of foods that are not-so common to the American public, and then basic grocery store items that everyone knows, like canned biscuit dough, Rice Krispies cereal, gummy worms, and hot dogs. Overall, it's an entertaining show that gives unknown chefs a great chunk of money and, who knows, a chance at being discovered after being on TV.

                                1. I love the chefs who seem surprised that they're on Chopped. Mystery Ingredients? What? Like the vegetarian cooks who are surprised to find meat in the basket. Or the ones who look about to cry because they have to butcher a chicken. Or the ones who only use "fresh" ingredients, and are horrified to find they have to compromise their artistic principles and use canned X or non organic Y.

                                  How do you apply to be on Chopped, audition to be on Chopped, shoot the introduction where you say how awesome you are and why you're going to win, and fail to brush up on the basics ( or even watch a few episodes) before showing up for the taping?

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: Whinerdiner

                                    But what you are expecting would not make good television. I'm sure the producers encourage the contestants to let their emotions show. There's also a lot of post production editing, selecting the moments that add drama.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      I guess you're right, but I just watched the new one I had recorded. The girl who won said that she had been practicing with her family to get prepared. I wondered why they all didn't do that, or at least have some frenemies throw out ideas for a mystery basket.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Exactly. If you're "The Crunchy Chef" on Chopped it's your JOB to be horrified by canned X and non-organic Y. The producers are trying to create plots and characters out of the material. This is TV, after all.

                                      2. re: Whinerdiner

                                        That's exactly what I always think--- "Did you not know what the shows about???" I would probably study up on all the foods and techniques I am unfamiliar with.

                                        1. re: libgirl2

                                          Ditto. I'd practice the classics and have a repertoire of dishes that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less, then throw in the mystery ingredients and make adjustments as I go.

                                          1. re: libgirl2

                                            I bet the producers pick the items after they've chosen the candidates, and make a point to hit their weak spots. Have you noticed how there's always one ingredient each chef hates with a passion (ie, Brussels sprouts, passion fruit, etc.)?

                                            Plus, let's not forget that the pressure they're under -- which is different than the kind they're used to in a restaurant -- can make people forget things they know. So even if they did practice or study ahead of time, it doesn't guarantee that they won't blank out once the timer starts.

                                            1. re: libgirl2

                                              Decent idea, but for me to study up on obscure ingredients would require that I have at least basic knowledge that these things even exist. Which, in the instance of Jew's Mallow, I did not. Never heard of such a thing. Marsh Mallow, that one I know. Jew's Mallow? Not so much.

                                              1. re: libgirl2

                                                Mantracker is a Canadian reality show in which an expert tracker has to follow and 'catch' two people who are the 'prey'. The Prey apparently can anyone who believes they have the stamina and skills to outwit the tracker. In preshow interviews they often talk about how they studied previous episodes, and based their strategy on that. However the odds of contestants winning has not changed significantly over 5 seasons.


                                                I suspect that on Chopped the skills you develop on the job are more important than breath of knowledge about ingredients. I wonder if there is an episode guide that lists the occupations of the contestants, especially the winners. Years of experience could also be relevant. My incomplete memory is that competitors who are not 'executive chefs' don't win.


                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  True about the skills, decent point. Granted, I'd perhaps have treated them like any other green. But not being an okraphile, once they started excreting slime, I'd have been wayyyyy outta my ballgame on that one.

                                            2. Even though this show seems to run non-stop, i just recently watched my first few episodes. I found them pretty entertaining, but i will probably burn out quickly. Anyway, i was curious if anyone caught the episde (assuming rerun) with the really jittery pastry chef who was working for no pay vs uber cocky chef chef...I know many chefs are extremely confident and that's important, but this one chef really annoyed me. His name was maurice hurley, and he requested they call him Chef Mo. He's executive chef at a place in New York called Valbella...is this supposed to be some super great restaurant? The idea of the show is that it's going to be challenging working with unfamiliar and sometimes lowly ingredients and he just seemed to turn his nose up at everything...he would never eat this or cook that because it's peasant food. He was also really into name dropping all the celebrity chefs who knows...anyone else see this guy and find him just as annoying?

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: iluvtennis

                                                Yes, I just saw this last night. I'm not a regular Chopped viewer, but an episode every now and then is enjoyable. Believe me, Chef Mo is not the most arrogant contestant by a long shot (terrifying, I know). But he is by far the most name-dropping one. If he referred to his good buddy Tony Bourdain one more time my head would have exploded. It also made me curious if Bourdain knew they were such good buddies.

                                                1. re: iluvtennis

                                                  Yep, saw it last night. Chef Mo is pretty tame compared to some of the others they've had on. There have been more than a few sore losers on the show

                                                2. I agree with the poster that enjoys learning about new ingredients. Sure, the gummi bears and fruit loops aren't that exciting, but they do bring in a lot of fruits, peppers and the like which I've never experienced before. I definitely enjoy the show.