Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Alex Guarnaschelli

by in Shows, March 4th, 2011
On Chopped All-Stars, Alex is tasked with judging some good friends.

There’s never been an episode of Chopped that wasn’t intense, but starting this Sunday night, things are about to get crazy. Alex Guarnaschelli is a fixture on the judges’ panel for Chopped All-Stars, where she’ll taste the mystery basket creations of Food Network heavyweights (Robert Irvine, Claire Robinson, Anne Burrell, Duff Goldman), some of The Next Food Network Star’s most memorable finalists (Brad Sorenson, Michael Proietti, Lisa Garza, Debbie Lee), celebrity chefs (Beau MacMillan, Nate Appleman, Jacques Torres, Anita Lo) and even fellow Chopped judges (Geoffrey Zakarian, Aarón Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Maneet Chauhan).

The chefs will compete in four rounds, tournament-style, and the winner of each will go on to the finale battle on April 3. Before the five-week mini-series kicks off this Sunday at 9pm/8c, we chatted with Alex about what it was like to critique the food of her peers and friends, whether she’d ever throw her own hat in the ring, and the difficulty of Chopped vs. Iron Chef America.

Were these Chopped All-Star battles more intense than “regular” rounds? Or did the chefs come to have fun and play for charity?
Honestly, every episode of Chopped is insanely stressful. When people are colleagues and know each other and then engage in a competition like this, it adds a whole other layer. People are amped up. They want to get along and they also want to win. That really added more complexity and tension, which is cool.

Did you have to judge chefs you know well?
Many. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s very painful to factor in. Anyone who competes on Chopped, you end up developing a personal relationship because you go through the whole thing with them. When you add knowing them personally on top of that, it makes decisions much more complicated.

How did you handle that with no hard feelings?
Everybody’s a professional; you know no matter what happens you’ll have a beer after. That helps.

Would you ever compete on Chopped?
Definitely. Being on TV, you’re always putting yourself out there at one point or another. It comes with the territory; you have to have an acceptance of your own strengths and weaknesses. I think to be a complete and whole judge, you need to compete and make yourself vulnerable to criticism, put yourself in their shoes.

What’s the hardest basket you’ve seen throughout the seasons?
So many. Just because you’re a judge doesn’t mean you can do everything perfectly or know everything.

Do you usually think about what you would’ve done with the ingredients?
No, not necessarily. I’m not thinking about what I’d do with the basket; I’m imagining myself in their shoes. I have a lot of empathy for the competitors; that’s very important to me. The judges on Chopped are pretty supportive; I think that’s a lot of what drives the show.

You’ve competed as a challenger on Iron Chef America. Do you think Chopped is harder?
They’re very different. Some days I’d say Chopped; some days I’d say Iron Chef. There are a lot of moving parts to both shows. Chopped always has multiple ingredients and multiple rounds. On the other hand, on Iron Chef you only have one ingredient, but you have to showcase one ingredient in five dishes. For every reason I say Chopped is harder, I could give you one why Iron Chef is harder. They’re both very dynamic and charged, very surprising emotionally. That’s why they resonate with the viewers. I’m interested in that kind of complexity more than whether you can make wasabi and golden raisins edible in five minutes. The emotional components require such drive, adrenaline and courage. Chopped is young, up-and-coming chefs, so it’s different. On Iron Chef, you’ve got somebody like Morimoto, and then you’ve got a young excited kid from Chicago who has a few years of experience under his belt and is looking to win Chopped. So it’s kind of apples and oranges.

Have the bizarre combinations featured on Chopped ever inspired any dishes on your menus?
No, no, no. It makes me think about certain ingredients I wouldn’t have thought to use, but not combinations. Grape leaves, I thought about doing something with them and then saw it in a basket and I was like wow, there’s a lot you can do with it. So it does spark certain things.

Favorite, or most unexpectedly good dish you’ve sampled as a judge?
Many, again. There are many highs, many lows. It’s a show of extremes. Sometimes you taste something and think, how did this happen? Sometimes you can’t believe how magical this is. This is the sixth season….that’s a lot of food.

Catch Round One of Chopped All-Stars this Sunday at 9pm/8c, and check back in with the FN Dish on Monday for a behind-the-scenes recap from host Ted Allen.


Similar Posts

The Curse of the Deconstructed Dish — Alton’s After-Show

Watch the latest installment of Alton's After-Show to see the host dish with tonight's judge, Antonia Lofaso....

Comments (135)

  1. Jackson says:

    I don't understand why a lot of you are saying that Michael is a monster, that his statement was hideous, and that you'll never watch food network again because of this one comment. There are so many bad things happening in this world and you're focusing on some figurative comment made by a chef that obviously is not true. What a stupid thing to be infuriated about. I'm sure food network will issue some sort of apology because yes, it was inappropriate, but to say all these things is ridiculous. All these reactions are quite immature as well. This whole situation has been blown way out of proportion.

    • ariendal says:

      i agree… ppl get way to upset about things. Michael was joking about the puppies thing, im sure he is a kind and caring person and would never do that and ppl that take his comment as being true are a bit immature.. a joke is a joke. sheesh

  2. Mike & Hope says:

    I hope he fails in the next round. Anyone who would say such a thing does not deserve to be on the Food Network. What a jerk!

  3. ariendal says:

    i have been wishing for a show like this for sooo long. Having foodnetwork stars and judges competing is so much fun to watch. And i agree a chopped amateur would be so fun… i would do it in a heartbeat

  4. cindy says:

    get over it. no one will kill a litter of pups. I say if something does not go my way that i will slit my wrist but really i would not.

  5. FredAndLynne says:

    Bravo!!! Week two was well worth watching! Awesome job, everyone, and getting down to Robert and Anne was just icing on the cake!! Looking forward to the rest of the contest! Thanks, Chopped!!

  6. deborah henry says:

    I agree with the many comments that FN's advertising was misleading because I did not consider the first four contestants, foodnetwork stars. Having said that, by now viewers should realize tha Michael just likes to be outrageous and he certainly accomplished that goal by saying what he said. It is sad that he has to do these things. Yes he is gay which is quite obvious but why rub people's noses in it by such outlandish behaviour. He needs to demonstrate his cookings skills and leave his antics for another place and time.

  7. Mary says:

    Oh my goodness, all this fuss over a harmless, if nit-witty remark! Its plainly obvious none of you have ever worked in a restaurant kitchen. You'd last about ten seconds.

  8. I did not think Michael would kill puppies, just like ROBERT would not have butchered Ted Allen if he had anything to do with the basket

  9. Veronicatowers says:

    They do have a nasty little habit of overlooking male contestants repeatedly serving raw undercooked food but let a female not crisp her bacon and they chop her

  10. GUEST says:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>