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CHOPPED: unnecessary evil

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The challenge faced by the chefs is daunting enough given their time constraints. Why include ingredients that can't possibly be cooked properly in the allotted time?

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  1. Because timed cook-offs have been done to death. This adds a spin on the creativity component. It's really a show about using the seemingly incompatible ingredients, not about the timed cooking.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Even though the ingredients are used creatively, the chef can lose because there wasn't enough time to cook an ingredient properly.

      1. re: mucho gordo

        That's what makes it interesting. But without the surprise of "what's in the box?" it becomes yet another Top Chef quickfire or Iron Chef lite. And giving them an unlimited time to be creative with the mystery box takes it out of game-show territory, which is why we're there in the first place.

        1. re: ferret

          You know what would actually be a good twist for a show like Chopped (or other cooking competition show) is instead of surprise ingredients, give the chef surprise cooking equipment.

          E.g., you get a basket of goods, and up comes the curtains to reveal that you only have a microwave to prepare the dish. And the next round you only have grill and a toaster oven, etc.

          Now, that would be interesting and quite challenging.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I like this idea, waffle iron, grilled cheese maker, electric grill, deep fryer, BBQ coals. Imagine octopus, donuts, american cheese and cauliflour with just a toaster oven!

            Some of the ingredients they are given are plain stupid - it feels as if they pull ingredient lists from a hat.

            1. re: smartie

              They've done that at least once, with griddles only.

            2. re: ipsedixit

              I swear that they screw with the chefs already. I mean, seriously...it's a cooking show and the ovens don't get hot? The burners can't heat oil?
              I know the equipment is unfamiliar to the contestants, but me thinks it makes for more drama when something breaks down.

            3. re: ferret

              I can hear the host saying: "Your dish was the most creative but it wasn't cooked enuf so you're chopped."

        2. Chopped seems to thrive on the judges acting disgusted and berating contestants for their failures. Giving the contestants no-win ingredients makes it easier to do this.

          It also leads to more (presumably entertaining) panic in the kitchen as well as sloppy-looking/sounding finished plates that allow armchair 'chefs' to imagine that they would have surely done better.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            well said.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              It's a game show and as such thrives on the audience identifying with the contestants. If we want to see well rehearsed kitchen chronography we can watch ICA and IC reruns.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                On target cowboy. They often like the dish but then have to come up with some derogatory comments. Like they could do better under the circumstances.

              2. I suspect the purpose of including ingredients that cannot be cooked in the allotted time is to check on how many contestants know how to use a pressure cooker. '-)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Caroline1

                  There's no way with the time constraints to use a pressure cooker. It takes several minutes alone just to to heat up and then decompress afterwards.

                2. It's TV. For all the use of "reality TV", the irony is that TV is nothing like reality. Competitve chef shows are more about on-camera culinary gymnastics than any practical real-world situation.

                  1. Talk about evil, did anyone catch the Chopped Halloween Special?
                    Ingredients like malted milk balls, gummy teeth, lambs heart, black chicken, fried grasshoppers...

                    Surprising the eventual winner forgot one of the surprise ingredients and his dessert was so spicy the judges couldn't eat it. The first chef was eliminated in the appetizer round (lamb heart) because he forgot to use the malted milk balls.

                    1. Actually I don't mind Chopped. For me, it's fascinating seeing what they come up with with those crazy ingredients in the allotted time.

                      That said, they really could use new judges, though. The woman -- Alexandra, I think? -- irks me for some reason.

                      1. To sum up Chopped:
                        First, watch the chefs open up a basket and bend over, because they're screwed.
                        Be prepared to watch at least one chef bleed profusely.
                        Watch judges dither on about who's bleeding or burning something.
                        Watch judges actually become "confused" by food. LInear regression is confusing. Keeping the core attached to grilled radiccio? Not so much.
                        Seriously.
                        And OMG, don't serve Conant raw unless you want to hear him whine like a baby, practically peeing himself. Oh, and serving cheese with fish induces apoplexy because, you know...well, you don't because it' stupid.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: monavano

                          Nail on the head monoavano. Good synopsis. Still semi-entertaining to see this circus of events.

                          1. re: monavano

                            Re: Conant. Don't forget no onions, or overcooked pasta (or really, any pasta).

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Oops! I meant to put raw onions above. Shite, I don't like raw onions either, but I just pick them off instead of having a hissy.

                              1. re: monavano

                                If you've ever had Conant's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil, you can sort of understand how he can be so hard on contestants when they serve pasta.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Oh, I understand he's known for pasta, I just think his behavior is childish at times. It's food; how big can the transgression be!
                                  And nothing but nothing warrants Alex G.'s death stare. Creepy.

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    I find the judges creepy as well as the contestants...some of the "chefs" look like they slept under a bridge then hoofed it over to the studio...

                                    by the end of the first 20 minutes they're sweaty, hands shaking, bleeding and crying...I've seen detox patients who look more pulled together than these contestants

                                    1. re: nolapark

                                      HA!! Great post and spot on!

                                    2. re: monavano

                                      Totally agree!! The whining over no red onions is so over the top, it's ridiculous. It almost seems as he expects the chef-testants to know that he hates them, thus must leave them out just for him. Really?

                                      And Alex's death looks ARE creepy.....ugh!

                                      I still love the show though......LOL

                              2. re: monavano

                                Chopped is one FN show that I truly hate. The chefs are always so cocky in their opening interviews and they always seem so surprised that the basket ingredients are unusual. I remember on one of the few episodes I watched, one of the chefs was vegan. She acted so completely thrown that she was required to cook with a meat/seafood ingredient (I think it might have been octopus.) It seems like the winner is not chosen because their dishes were the best, it's because they made the dishes that sucked the least.

                                1. re: gmm

                                  haha i love when vegan chefs get the "ICKY meat!" protein; they're inevitably flummoxed or grossed out and whinge about it.

                                  a good friend of mine competed earlier this year and the editing was cruel; because he worked for an iron chef, chopped really played up his cocky side and made him appear like a total ass hat (which he isn't).

                                  1. re: selenster

                                    It's important to remember, with any of these shows, that editing has a lot to do with our perceptions. The tone of the show is set, more by the producers, than by the actors and participants. In addition the viewers do their own editing - selecting incidents, and projecting them to the whole show. Yes, participants have cut themselves, but they don't do that on every episode. Yes, participants are cocky. You have to have some confidence in yourself to participate in a show like this. But I'm sure the producers encourage them to speak that way, and select the statements that best convey that. And to the viewers, the most memorable are the ones who fall the furthest.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      that's exactly what happened - the producers kept pushing my friend, who was there for the taping for over 12 hours (and understandably exhausted), to say negative things about his fellow contestants. after enough prodding, he did. and that is exactly what got aired!

                                      i was very "facepalm" while watching the episode because i knew it was all taken out of context, but to those who don't know him, they probably just saw a big jerk, which is far from the case. he wrote a blog entry about it and posted something on his facebook in attempt to defend himself.

                                  2. re: gmm

                                    gmm, maybe the chefs are so cocky because ninety percent of them are from the New York city area. I'm an NYC chef, I must be great.

                                2. I really like chopped because I learn about ingredients I have not seen or used before. I record it and stop each round and imagine how I would use the ingredients myself. I am frequently surprised that the contestants have not prepped by watching previous episodes and learned what the judges foibles are (i.e., I think it is Conant that is the pasta guru that does not like raw red onions). One other judge has very lttle tolerance of capsaicin. I am also surprised that they often seem surprised by the time element which should be obvious by watching previous episodes. I am very fond of this show all in all..