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Chopped All Stars

Looking forward to watching the judges compete next week - not that it may make them any more sympathetic in their comments when they're back
at the judging table.

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  1. Why should be the judges be sympathetic?

    In All Stars 1 the judge competitors were
    Maneet Chauhan , Amanda Freitag , Geoffrey Zakarian, Aarón Sánchez

    All Stars 2:
    Chris Santos, Marc Murphy, Alex Guarnaschelli , Marcus Samuelsson

    This one:
    Alex, Amanda, Marc, Scott.

    Scott is the only one who hasn't been a contestant before. Has he competed on anything else?

    3 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      Hated to see Conant win. He is my least favorite judge ever. I'd rather see even Chauhan who isn't a real judge win than evil nasty Conant.

      1. re: Njchicaa

        Not a Conant fan myself, but there were times when he
        struggled (ie the red onions) or almost seemed humbled by
        the experience - which might make him more sympathetic
        to contestants when he returns to the judges' table as I
        tried to convey in the original post.

        I get particularly annoyed when there is an ingredient
        not meant to be coooked in 20/30 minutes like certain
        grains or cuts of meat and the judges complain that is is
        undercooked. Contestants make try an innovative prep
        for the item hoping it will succeed but they are not miracle

        1. re: ferventfoodie

          Scott had another "experience" last evening when his cakes for the dessert round didn't get finished in time. He broke them up and put the cooked parts on the plate. His plate didn't look as good as Gavin's, but I didn't hear the judges comments when they tasted. I think he won on the basis of his first two dishes being so excellent.

    2. Its been fun but boy the judge/contestants got some serious softball baskets last night..

      5 Replies
      1. re: jchulley

        I just watched the episode and I totally agree. The ingredients were easy. I couldn't believe Alex was bemoaning the pizza sauce. How often have contestants had to deal with licorice wheels, cotton candy, soda bread in a can, gummi bears etc.? Now those are really weird, difficult ingredients. I hardly think a can of pizza sauce is that taxing. I wish they would have given them kimchi in the dessert round!

        I'm not crazy about Conant but I think he deserved the win. After the first round, he found his footing. I thought the main course looked gorgeous. I don't think it needed a starch at all.

        1. re: chefhound

          Often, though, the weird ingredients have more entertainment value than competitive. They serve more to grab the viewer's attention, than to distinguish between good and bad cooks. "viewers choice' baskets tend to have the weirdest selection.

          1. re: paulj

            Those viewers choice baskets a few weeks ago were horrible combinations. I don't think the judges could have done much better with them.

            But I agree with Chefhound, I think the baskets for the judges competition were the easiest of the All-Star rounds so far.

            1. re: paulj

              I'm going to have to disagree with you on that. I think the weird ingredients are what makes the competition.

              It's a challenge to be able to think quickly when the item won't melt, can't be pureed in the blender or processor and you don't want to just chop it up and scatter it on the plate. Anyone can make a delicious dish when given ingredients which obviously go together.

              On the episode with Blais, Faulkner et al, everybody used the fruit cocktail as a salsa, chutney, compote-like item (predictable) but only Blais embraced the fruit cocktail enough to use the syrup to glaze and caramelize the short ribs.

              I thought that was brilliant. That demonstrates that he is not just grudgingly using the ingredient because it was required but taking it one step further.

              1. re: chefhound

                I thought Blais' advantage was that he volunteered that he'd enjoyed eating fruit cocktail as a child...and it appeared that he didn't find it "gross" even now, just possibly not as great as other fresh fruit choices.

        2. Haven't had a chance to watch the one with the judges yet but I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that Richard Blais should have won. The judges should have penalized Gavin Kaysen for not incorporating the cheese into the main dish and creating a "cheese course".

          I know I didn't taste the food and all that but it looked like Gavin created a pretty traditional beef stew and did not incorporate the cheese. Yes, apparently it tasted really good but pretty predictable.

          Richard on the other hand, used the fruit cocktail to glaze and caramelize the oxtail - brilliant idea.

          Gavin made a boring, safe dessert. Again, it probably tasted good but the ideas that come out of Richard's head are so exciting and clever. His dessert challenged the dessert boundaries in such an wonderful way.

          I think Richard was right is saying that whoever won this round had a very good chance of winning the whole thing. The other winners have a tough challenge against the skills of Gavin. The only thing that might screw him up is that he's traditional. He can't come up with ways to use marshmallow fluff and gummy bears as well as Blais.

          I look forward to watching the judge's round.

          6 Replies
          1. re: chefhound

            I'm never sure why Blais isn't more successful on TV comps-- as if traditional chefs don't know what to think about what he does?

            I just saw him as a sous on an Iron Chef and he really pushes the technique while also creating what seems to be "super yummy" food.

            1. re: Kris in Beijing

              The runner up in the last (regular) Chopped episode left the floor complaining that 'I thought this competition was about innovation'. If I recall correctly he used the ISI creamer twice in his desert.

              But if you believe some of the 'what trends are you tired of' threads, foams and sous vide are passe.

              1. re: paulj

                I don't think Chopped is necessarily about innovation - it's about creativity. It's not about making foams etc., it's about coming up with some brilliant way to use gummi bears in an entree, not just chop them up and scatter them on the plate. It's about figuring out how to incorporate stinky tofu into a dessert, embracing it rather than hiding it.

                1. re: chefhound

                  One of the ingredients for the desert round this time was 'french toast sticks'. The judges talked about something CHOW posters have complained about - the all too frequent pan perdu deserts. Needless to say the judge-contestants did transform the sticks.

              2. re: Kris in Beijing

                Have you seen Blais's new cookbook, Try This At Home?

                1. re: paulj

                  I haven't been able to SEE Blais' book, but the negative reviewers are pretty loud and the supporters are more along the lines of "yeah, it was cool."

            2. Won't this week be the last round for the finalists? Anyone know who's competing? I laughed at loud seeing Scott Conant do red onions (and then forgetting to get them on the plate).

              2 Replies
              1. re: pine time

                some celebrities that I never heard of

                1. re: paulj

                  I was looking at the promo pictures and wondering what shows they'd been on whilst I was hidden away in China.

              2. You may have noticed the ads during the Chopped show that look like mini chopped episodes. That's called 'sponsored content'

                1. "Alright everyone listen up! We all want to get out of here early so lets just put everyone who's ever been on any of our cooking shows names in this hat. We'll draw four names and they'll be the contestants and draw another four names and they'll be the judges. We'll keep doing this until we've got the season penciled in. Next year we'll just reverse the names. Have a good weekend everyone".

                  1. Just watched the celebrity round. The baskets were tougher than the ones the professionals got. More weird ingredients this round.

                    The judges were very kind. These guys did not know what they were doing. I'm not saying that they didn't give it a good try but they lacked some basic knowledge.

                    Leila burnt the chicken and overcooked the steak. Joey thought he could marinate a steak with jello? He didn't melt it into the marinade, he rubbed it on the meat. How does that work?

                    Leila and Joey did seem to be the best of the bunch but it's going to be an extremely uneven battle next week.

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: chefhound

                      I found the round a bit patronizing. As though they wanted to provide a guaranteed softball for the other celebrities in the final. The only way that Leila will make it past the first round of the final is if another contestant has a major mistake/accident.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        Even if Gavin Kaysen and Scott Conant each accidently cut off a finger, Leila's chances would still be pretty slim.

                        Even if she, by some miracle, managed to beat Sunny Anderson and make it through the first round, she'd never get through the second round.

                        It's quite cruel to set up such an uneven fight. Just as I was screaming "Oh god, no! Don't do that!!" at the tv last night, next week I'll be cringing through the first round.

                        1. re: chefhound

                          If say in the final plating one of the contestants dropped an entire plate, forgot an ingredient, and over/under cooked an ingredient - then Leila might have a chance. But yeah. I think it's a bit demoralizing competitively speaking in the fact that someone like Richard Blaise misses out on the final while Leila is there.

                        2. re: cresyd

                          The celebs in the last round aren't really chefs. I wouldn't mind seeing a celeb Chopped, and have them compete against each other.

                        3. re: chefhound

                          It looked like figure skater Johnny Weir can cook, but he seems to live in a very strange world of his own, I couldn't keep my eyes off of him. I know enough people in the skating world and I undertand that that's not unusual.

                          1. re: chicgail

                            Long before he entered the cooking world (some other celebrity cook-off show he was on), he hit the radar on fashion sites. Some call him Johhny Weird, but I've had a soft spot for his persona. Seems like a sweet guy.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              If they wanted a skater, I wonder why not Brian Boitano? I liked his short=lived show on Food Network and he can cook. I can't get over how broken up Johnny Weir was on getting chopped. Do any of the celebrity contestants really think they can realistically take the prize?

                              1. re: chowser

                                Why do any of them participate? The money goes to charity, even if it is one of their choice. What everyone gets, winner or not, is exposure.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  The question wasn't why did he participate. The question was did he realistically think he had a chance to win? He almost had a break down when he was chopped.

                                2. re: chowser

                                  If I were Brian Boitano and knew that the other celebrities appearing were there for spending time on Guy and Rachel's Cookoff - I probably would have stayed clear to avoid being lumped with that caliber of cook.

                                  Chopped is one of those competitions where the various "amateur" rounds (either true home cooks, or the episode where they had fire fighters) always feels a bit uncomfortable to me. I find there to be an awkward feeling of the judges trying very hard to be supportive of food that is ok at best. So the judges hold back, and the food that's made isn't super interesting.

                                  1. re: cresyd

                                    LOL, maybe he was smart. It is almost uncomfortable watching the amateurs try to compete against the pros. Can you imagine that happening in another field, eg. someone who likes to dance competing against a pro who has been trained and spent years perfecting his/her craft?

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    Wow, I thought the "broken up" was an act; no? I also liked "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"

                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                      I thought it was at first but then watching again, thought it wasn't. It seemed a little extreme but maybe he's just overly dramatic as an actor?

                                    2. re: chowser

                                      They wanted a celebrity.

                                      Since Brian Boitano has already had a Food Network cooking show, he'd have to have appeared in that group.

                                3. Grantland has returned to recap the 4th qualifying round of Chopped All-Stars, I imagine mostly because of the presence of two previous contestants from Rachel and Guy's Cookoff.