Ted Allen Answers Your Questions About Chopped

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, June 16th, 2009

Ted AllenI spent my afternoon coffee break with the one and only Ted Allen. Okay, it was a phone interview, but I did have my coffee and pen in hand. I can tell you, FN readers, I am officially a “Ted head.” Below are some of your questions Ted answered, as well as a few additional questions I was hungry to ask.

FN DishSetting aside the dropped food and tasting with cooking spoons, what’s the most cringe-worthy thing you’ve seen in the Chopped kitchens so far?

TED ALLEN: If you’re talking about the issue of hygiene, something that really freaks me out is chefs who sweat profusely. It seems like the sweatiest ones are the ones who like to lean over the plate while they’re tinkering with it. We can’t put all the blame on the chefs because the Chopped kitchen gets really hot. The judges are sweating too, but they’re not cooking. So, I kind of think if you’re a chef who gets really juicy, maybe a headband, hat, doo-rag? Something?

FN Dish: Are the baskets of food selected based upon the chef contestants, or are they selected at random?

TA: Oh, that’s a good question. They’re not random. The basket ingredients are chosen by Food Network’s culinary department, and they are created long before FN knows who the chefs are going to be. Also, the staff that picks them has long tortured meetings in which they argue whether anything is possible with a given group of ingredients. They don’t want to make a basket that’s impossible, just incredibly difficult.

FN Dish: Why do you think women have been less successful than men on the show? Are there really so few female chefs out there?

TA: Another great question, and one that is dear to my heart. The percentage of chefs who are women in our country continues to be shockingly low. I recently had this conversation with Alex Guarnaschelli — she was guessing that maybe it’s 10 percent. The kitchen has a very macho hierarchy, hopefully better than what it was, but this is a field that for the most part is dominated by men. So, first of all there are far fewer female chefs available. Our casting department tries really hard to get them. We want all kinds of people on our show. I can tell you for sure I am always rooting for the women. Some of my favorite contestants have been women, notably Katie Rosenhouse. She was awesome! I promise you we have some good women winners this season — and some pretty exciting male flameouts.

Chopped JudgesFN Dish: When do we get to see you and the judges compete on Chopped

TA: Oh, man! I’d probably cut my thumb off. I really don’t want to cook against Alex Guarnaschelli or Scott Conant, or any of them for that matter. I’m not a professional chef; I love to cook. I cook all the time; I write recipes, and I publish cookbooks. I know something about food but I’ve never had to work on a line. I’ve never had to churn out 400 covers, with people yelling at me. I’d be at something of a disadvantage. Maybe an April Fool’s episode?

FN Dish: Do you get to taste the food?

TA: This is the upside about transitioning from being a judge to being a host: I can the taste the food if I want to, but I don’t have to. So, I taste things that look really delicious or if something sounds really fascinating. Sometimes the dishes are scary, and I don’t have to eat them.

FN Dish: We’ve read that your Mom was a big influence on your interest in food, so does she tune in to Chopped or DVR it?

TA: Oh yeah, sure. She doesn’t like it when people are mean to one another. She just thinks people should be polite. On occasion she has found Alex a little tough.

FN Dish: It seems that most food competitions shows have either one of two extremes with their contestants: Either they are established home cooks or established restaurant chefs. So why put sous chefs or mid level cooks on Chopped?

TA: I look at our contestants as the people who are actually behind the stove truly cooking your food for you day in and day out. They’re the ground troops of the culinary world. Most of the chefs who make it to Iron Chef are at the top of their game. Also, those chefs are at a point in their career where they are overseeing the kitchen. Now of course they still have their chops, but that’s one of the things that make our show different.

FN Dish: Do you and the judges wonder what you’d do with the ingredients when baskets are revealed?

TA: Yeah, that’s the first thing we do after the basket opens. I go back to the chopping block and we talk about what would you do? What could you do? What would be the smart thing to do? What be a disastrous mistake? What always seems to happen is the chefs resort to putting yellow and red bell peppers all over the plate because they like the color of them or something. I would urge them not to do that. Our judges are so sick of bell peppers. Most of our judges don’t even like bell peppers. Find something else that’s red — a radish?

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Comments (37)

  1. tigergal75 says:

    I’m a regular FN viewer and I love “Chopped.” I do not love Alex. She was a big loser on both ICA and an episode of FN Challenge, and her own show is dismal. She loves to hear herself talk. It seems someone at FN has finally gotten to her about being so frumpy: last night she had on a little lipstick! Alex needs to be a contestant on “What Not To Wear,” and a complete makeover, maybe that would help her nasty disposition.
    My favorite judge on “Chopped” is Aaron Sanchez. He always finds something positive to say, and he is HOT, HOT, HOT! Would love to see Aaron with his own cooking show on the FN.

  2. Robin Koury says:

    Great interview and how generous of Ted Allen to share his time answering the questions of Chopped fans! I have to agree with Ted, the chefs who get a little “juicy” while cooking should go with a headband or hat of sorts! I assume the “juicy” dishes are the ones he passes on sampling!

  3. How do the judges vote on who wins. wish that question was asked

  4. Diane Davis says:

    On Chopped, the winner always stands alone and walks out alone. How sad. Can’t there be some kind of whoopla for the winner? Handshake from the judges or something? I agree on the sweating issue: something should be done to eliminate drips on the plate! UCK! Headbands should be mandatory!

  5. John Feist says:

    Okay, Mr. Allen, I’ve asked this before and I would appreciate your response in reference to the “Chopped” episode in which The Food Network ran out of eggs. My question is, why weren’t there enough eggs for the two finalists to use in their desserts? I thought at first it must be an (unspoken) additional handicap, perhaps to test the contestants’ spirit of competitiveness v. congeniality, but, no, even though the contestants shared the two eggs voluntarily, there was no comment from you or the judges about the matter other than to say that each dish needed more egg! I think the show shot itself in the foot with that one.

  6. Kathy says:

    Mr. Allen, I've watched "Chopped" since it's debut in Canada, where I live. Mostly, I enjoy it. The format is really interesting, and it's fun to watch the chefs 'sweat' it out (yes, I agree a bandana is in order). I think the show would be even more fun if we got to see these people really cook – the way they would in their own restaurants. Could you and your producers think of giving them 15 minutes prep time, once they see the ingredients. The way it is now, it's less of a contest of who uses/combines the ingredients into the best dish, it's more like, 'who's dish doesn't totally stink.' I think a little prep time, just to think of how and what they're going to do would give you and the audience a better idea of who's the best, most inventive chef. After all, that's what they do in their restaurants. They can't keep folks waiting 60 minutes for a single dish, but they know ahead of time what they're going to prepare and how they're going to do it….

  7. Faithful Foodie says:

    What happened on tonight's show (10/27/09)? I want to register a protest about the outcome. How can a contestant win and not even finish his dish? It was entirely "personal" on Conant's part. He got mad when he got served onions twice, thought the chef was not apologetic enough and then got him chopped in the final round. I demand that you be fair and allow that chef to return; he did a fine job and actually finished his dish. The other guy's first two dishes were not good enough to outweigh the fact that he DIDN'T FINISH! Shame on Conant.

    • marene says:

      I agree, they have rules that they have to finish the dish in the time limit . it is a race also. if you do not fisnish the last dish even if you first two dishes were good… you still didn't finish the race. you should be chopped. not fair to the other who did finish all three dishes. then they should let all four cook all three dished for a overall score

  8. Dorothy Grimes says:

    yikes, your selection on the show of 10/27 is unprofessional. I listened to your comments prior to the Chop. OMG, this is a competition! The contestant did not complete his challenge. No Way. It's like "oh well, there was a homer at 2nd and 3rd." He struck out on 3 but let him win anyway. How can you expect contestants to live up to time constraints in the future? I've watched shows where it happened and they were chopped. What gives with this particular winner that he was cut so much slack. Boo on you all.
    Too bad the judge doesn't like onions.

  9. FRAN says:

    I agree completely with faithfulfoodie…I think he was angry because of the onions. These people are by far the most rude and nasty people I have ever seen, except for the judges on the next food network star. They are disgusting. How he could loose when all his meals were great. Do we all smell a FIX.??

  10. unclealan says:

    I'm blanched and shocked by the outcome of Tuesday's Chopped. Emotionally I wanted the young struggling restauranteur to win, but he clearly DID NOT. The last shot after the CHOP showed the winning plate and losing 1/2 plate of slop…UNFAIR
    The chef 'judges' are getting pickier and even more touchy and petulant.

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