Chopped Challenge

Food Network is slowly taking over the world. Or, at least, our Hulu channel at home. What will the dueling chefs do with their secret ingredient of…SEAWEED? Will that chef finally listen to the judges and get a bandanna so he quits sweating all over his fancy risotto? Is that super tall cake shaped like Sponge Bob going to fall over and more importantly, will that lady with the downturned mouth even dain to look at it?


My current favorite is Chopped, where competing chefs receive a mystery basket with various ingredients and need to prepare a dish for judges to…judge. The main thing I’ve gleaned from the show so far is to be wary of using the ice cream maker for your dessert, and that if the judges are watching you from behind their fingers, you’ve probably burned something.


Even though I don’t have a basket with a top, I always imagine being on the show (although with my luck, that episode the basket would be full of artisianal hand soaps or something). Nonetheless, I wanted to create my own Chopped challenge. I went into my kitchen, picked 4 ingredients at random, and just went for it.

GGG 22.3


  • 4-5 rando ingredients (probably better if someone picks them out for you, but do what you can)
  • Parsley for garnish (optional, but classy)

1) Take in the ingredients in front of you – bonus points if you look at them wide-eyed, maybe chewing your lip contemplatively

GGG 22.4

2) Start taking apart ingredients, trying out a little taste here and there to figure out flavor profiles

GGG 22.5

3) However you decide to prepare the ingredients, you need to run around and yell “Behind you!” (even if you are by yourself – it helps up the ante)

GGG 22.6

4) Make sure your hands are shaking as you arrange stuff on the plate – you won’t look legit if you don’t have a little shake going on

GGG 22.7

5) One of your ingredients should be used as a flourish – which usually means scraped against the plate in a semi-purposeful fashion

GGG 22.8

6) Enjoy! Your dish will vary depending on the ingredients, but for this example I came up with: Orange Slices with a Cauliflower Floret Accompaniment, followed by a Trail Mix Chaser and Don’t Do Anything With That Relish It’s Just Decoration

GGG 22.9

What say you, Ted Allen?


81 thoughts on “Chopped Challenge

  1. I always look forward to one of your posts coming up on my reader because they are always laugh out loud hysterical. I am also obsessed with Chopped. I found bitter melon at Redner’s a few days ago and almost bought it out of principle.

    • Dude, the reader-feelings are mutual. Glad you get a kick outta Chopped, too! I think at least half the excitement comes from the judge’s concern. If you dared to get that bitter melon, I think you’d need to ensure there would be someone your kitchen commenting on its difficult nature in order to really enjoy it to its full potential.

    • I wish I had more exotic things hanging out in my kitchen – I feel like one of the staples of the show is an ingredient that you need to Google (or wait for the judges to explain to you). Alas, it was oranges and trail mix instead of baby octopus and poblano chiles.

  2. I know you meant it for a laugh, but I love shows where random ingredients are used to cook something – that is far more the kind of cooking going on in my kitchen than the purposefully bought ingredients used … Sometimes I only have time to cook on a Sunday – when all supermarkets are closed here. And then I have to take what I find in my kitchen. To see a show where a professional (who usually cooks with pre-bought ingredients and not just what is there) comes up with something fancyful encourages me to more creativity. Some show they raided kitchens from strangers down the street and cooked there. Of course I know it is scripted reality, of course I know they fill the baskets with some weird component just for the laughs, something I will never ever have in my kitchen. But the feeling of You can make a meal out of nothing remains.

    • Well said! I think that must be one of the reasons people love this show – all the creativity and joy in the kitchen (paired with the total skillz of the competing chefs) is just contagious. If you made a cookbook of your Sunday creations, I would be all over that 🙂

  3. Need the drama of a hideous knife wound, blood or bits left on cutting board, letting raw chicken touch pimento-loaf, the blubbering guy who wants to take his dying wife’s late mother in law home to Italy , the sweaty slob, the arrogant dick who times out in the first round, and the dreaded sardines for dessert. Great post thanks.

    • Um, I feel like I just e-met my dream Chopped-watching partner. These are all essential ingredients for a proper episode. Next time I will definitely ensure I am wearing a latex glove that has at least one cut finger inside. (Also, bonus points for pimento-loaf).

      • Thanks Essbee’ Before my decent into my present state I was a cook for 30 years…many a time yelling “behind you!” preserved my life, many a job was a mystery food challenge- I dream often at night I am stuck in a place with nothing to cook. Once I had a “Chef” put the broccoli on with no water in the pot then panic, set it down and burn a hole in the floor that is probably still there. Her Lemon Meringue Pie slid the length of the counter and gracefully killed itself in the trash. Thanks for the pimento-loaf points!! Cheers to Chopped.

      • You have officially lived through Chopped. Please tell me you are writing a book about all of these cooking stories! I can just see the pie sliding and slam dunking in the trash.

  4. Ha! I love this. not gonna lie, I’ve done the same thing before. And running around like a mad man in your kitchen yelling “behind you!” and various other bits just completely enhances the experience. This might be my next day off activity!

    • Agreed. I mean, I’m appreciative of people who think carefully of what ingredient matches with what flavor profile, but I also just feel like all food tastes good, in whatever order it goes in your mouth.

    • Well, that’s why I think it would have been better to have someone else pick them – to ensure randomness (and probably more calamity). These ingredients were all things I was planning at eating at some point throughout the day, which is how they made their way to my basket. And there was definitely a mess, just not the photos to prove it 🙂

  5. My wife and i see the panel taking so as to influence the cooks,making them nervous. We notice the judge’s using tactics so apparent it’s embarrassing and we seek an alternate, the network cut off the judge’s criticisms so the watchers don’t get a clear picture of how they pick a certain person. We have learned how to pick each winner and losers, the show isn’t about good cooks but very common chefs attempting to make themselves what they are not. A five star chief serving those that qualify for big money and influence, this course will never work.

    • Yeah – there are totally moments when a judge will say something and look so smug at how witty they are being that I wonder if they scripted the remark in advance and waited for an opportunity to use it. It would be really interesting to view an unedited version of the show where you could hear commentary in full. Or maybe I’ll just turn off the sound when watching and make my own soundtrack…

  6. Hahaha the ‘look out behind you’ made me laugh. It seems to be true of all food shows. Of course it must also be timed and you will need to plate that meal in 20 seconds 🙂

  7. Oh yesss.. and congratulations you have just won the 10000 dollars .. love this show, sometimes at home, we pretend we are the judges on the show during dinner time, and critic the food, eventually everyone gets chopped, but this show gives me hope that if nothing else, take every ingredient and blend it and call it some ” sauce”..

    • I totally want to have dinner at your house – that sounds like a blast! And your point is totally true that there is always some panicked contestant that forgets an ingredient and blends up the forgotten Cheetos (or what-have-you) with something liquidy to make a sauce. Mmm…Cheeto sauce.

  8. Your blog is great! I was hoping if you could kindly visit my blog and like or comment on anything you found interesting?

    • I feel like it’s just “food that is edible.” Maybe there is a food thesaurus that exists somewhere so pedestrian chefs like myself can find impressive words to describe our meals? That would be awesome.

  9. Cooking competitions are far too addicting, and Chopped is by far the best. The format, the host, and the charming judges make for a great hour to spend watching something… wait… I just spent the last 3 hours watching it.
    This show is dangerously good.
    By the way, my sister’s Girl Scout Troop did a Chopped challenge. The girls picked up ingredients from the local farmer’s market and then made their own gourmet dishes. It was a lot of fun.

    • The show just seems to fly by – super easy to get sucked into multi-hour viewing (and even though it’s dangerous, no regrets, say I!). Your sister’s Girl Scout Troop sounds awesome – I’d love to do that with a group of friends sometime. Thanks for reading along!

  10. Pingback: Thinking Like a “Chopped” Contestant Can Save Any Dull Pitch-In | Midlife Crisis Crossover

  11. Love it!! We’ve had throw downs in my house. The two girls had a pork chop throw down, and the ol’ man and I had a milkshake one. He will never say something of his is better than mine 🙂

  12. Pingback: You really like me: One lovely blog award « psychologistmimi

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