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. Alan Kaplan 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

  2. marene says:

    I am mad that the last show I watched was unfair. the winner didn't finish his last dish and the judges asked the other person if they can taste what wasn't on the dish. times up sorry… the judges knows the rule. they shouldn't of asked. they have chopped others for this in the past .he should of got chopped for not finishing/ but he won any ways for his other two dishes. then this shouldn't be called chopped. they should give all four contestents they same chances of making all three dishes for an over all chance.

  3. Anita Johnson says:

    I like watching chopped but I really think that they should get more judges the regular three are so unfair.
    One episode where the chef tasted his food with a spoon and tasted it again with the same spoon. He moved on to the next round and did the same thing again even though it they recognized it. Then on top of that the judges tasted the both dishes !!!! How nasty can you be ??!!??
    And please do not reply to the judges comments because you really wont have a chance at winning !!!!!!!

  4. Guest says:

    I think that judges need to have a more expanded palate if they are going to be judging the quality and taste of dishes. The judge who disliked onions was just shockingly juvenile. Onions are on almost every salad you get from Olive Garden to the fanciest French restaurant, what business does that man have judging food if he can't stand a common ingredient? That was like letting my adolescent daughter judge, every contestant would have to make mac and cheese and hot dogs or she would refuse to eat it and make that face he made when he saw onions on his plate.

  5. bentspoon says:

    Ted does a fantastic job as a host for this show —-but I've just about had it up to here with the judges—they flat out stink–They really do not add anything to the show except their own egos—the producer should really think about getting some new judges–Frietag I thought was good for the two episodes I saw her in. Keep the show on the upswing the present judges s–k —Alex is putrid along with her two egomaniac friends. Sanchez and Frietag and someone new would be a good start

    • luvcookin says:

      I completely agree with you! Ted does a great job. And I love Sanchez as a judge! Frietag is okay too. Scott Conant or however he spells his name is a major jerk. I can't stand to watch him. And the other male judge, I can't remember his name right now is a jerk too. He's older with gray hair, maybe Jeffrey something? Both of them could leave and I wouldn't miss them one iota. Jeffrey Zacharian? Alex G. seems to be a bit milder this season though and I do like to watch her shows.

  6. Dee says:

    If 4 plates are prepared and a chef only gets 3 finished, why aren't the 3 finished plates put before the 3 judges and the other one discarded or does Ted have a vote, too and HE got one of the finished plates and one of the unfinished plates was given to a judge? Doesn't seem fair !!

  7. Kathy says:

    I do not know if anyone will read this but I have mention the recent Chopped episode "Sweet Second Chance". Many things happened on this episode that I had not seen before such as a contestant be burned with hot water when she fell. When Lance's (I believe that is his name) victory awarded him the $10,000, I was overcome with emotion when he offered part of his winnings to his competitor for a flight to France to visit her sick grandmother. That is the mark of a true champion. I hope that if you have other opportunities for this young man, you will consider including him. He is not on a journey for his career, he is on a journey for bountiful life. Cheers.

  8. Charlie says:

    My wife and I love to watch chopped and when see sees the contents usually sayes what she would do with them. How about having a contest with 16 home cooks. People without professional training or schooling other than night school classes or other lessons for the everyday person. Also for these episodes get 3 less critical judges.

  9. Mary Wilbur says:

    Can you tell me what happens to the 1,000 cupcakes that don't win. Where do they go?

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