What’s the Most-Common Mistake Made in the Chopped Kitchen?

by in Shows, April 13th, 2013

Geoffrey Zakarian, Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag and Ted AllenWeek after week, Chopped fans tune in to watch four eager chef competitors take their places in the kitchen for a chance to outcook the chopping block and score the coveted title of Chopped Champion. Not only facing off against each other, the contestants battle baskets full of mystery ingredients like shad roe sacks, black garlic, pig ears and duck hearts — products and produce that are so unusual that some chefs have neither seen nor tasted them before in their career.

Working with such oddball selects surely invites a host of unique problems, including overcooked proteins and underdone grains, but the most-common mistake made among chefs isn’t one resulting from obscure ingredients. Instead, it’s something that trips up even home cooks as they prepare everyday meals for their families.

Speaking to a crowd at the Borgata Hotel Spa & Casino in Atlantic City, longtime Chopped judge Geoffrey Zakarian said that the most-prominent error in competitors’ dishes is seasoning. No stranger to the highs and lows in the Chopped kitchen, he’s tasted his share of meals that have proved to be near disasters simply because chefs used too little of two of the most-basic ingredients found in restaurant and home kitchens alike: salt and pepper. “Nobody puts salt and pepper in their food,” he said. “Amazing. Shocking.”

What cooking conundrums do you struggle with in the kitchen? Tell FN Dish in the comments below.

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Comments (42)

  1. Robin says:

    Perhaps the reason many people don't use salt, in particular, is because of the very high incindence of high blood pressure and heart disease. People assume that means no salt.

    • Replytoronin says:

      Umm – those same folks are he ones that run to McDonald and sonic to eat dinner?.. Suckers!

      • Robin says:

        The ones who are going to McD and Sonic are not chefs, nor do they often cook their own food. I am talking specifically about people who actually care enough to cook.

      • Tammy says:

        Not so! I have Heart Disease and High Blood pressure I do not eat salt NEVER have. I don't eat out either also I have always cooked my own food because of these reasons. I was born with a bad heart so I learned very earlier on what I could and could not eat and cook with. Yes there are those out there that run to McDonald's on a daily basses' feel for them because one day they may be like me……I don't I hope not.

  2. C Vera S says:

    Robin, I agree with you in theory – my husband and I are middle aged and cut back on the salt and cholesterol, but 3 times a year on birthdays and our anniversary we treat ourselves to a little decadence and enjoy the well seasoned, cream laden wonderful restaurant food that we know better than to eat every day. That's what they are judging on chopped – the wonderful stuff I look forward to on big holidays. For us it's worth cutting back a day or two before and after – everything in moderation.

  3. Julie says:

    Finding alternatives to using salt and pepper. I do all the cooking (from scratch) in our home and for health reasons I am to restrict salt and pepper intake. It allows for use of a wide variety of spices and herbs but knowing the best pairings would be a help

    • MrsWilbert says:

      cooking with salt is much better for you than using prepackaged and processed crap. I don't believe doctors who say no salt, because that is not true. Your body needs some, just not the 1000 mgs in a serving of canned soup or veggies.

  4. AnDee says:

    Am I the only person who noticed how many celebrity chefs drank straight out of their liquor bottles and then cooked with it….and they got no smack down from the judges. That really stuck with me after seeing the judges rip chef after chef for that in regular competition. Kinda made me think a different standard exists for the favorites.

  5. MrsWilbert says:

    What really gets me is that these people are professional chefs. Don't they know to season every layer of food by now?

  6. Joy says:

    I'm tired of "Chopped" and Iron Chef." How about some new shows. My favorite chefs are
    Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Kesley, and Giada.

  7. Sheri says:

    Only about 10 -15% of the population supposedly are "salt sensitive". For these people sodium causes fluid retention, which in turn causes high blood pressure and thus possibly heart problems. Diuretics can be taken to help with this problem, but for the rest of us it should be "everything in moderation."

    • Tammy says:

      I am one of those who can NOT eat anything with sodium in it. I have a really hard time when my family wants to go out to eat. I take two types of diuretics but still it does not help if I eat anything that has salt in it. Food has it's own natural salt also.

  8. DVD says:

    People’s taste buds do not necessarily agree with what these chefs are taught in their cooking schools. Common people do not like their food over salted which is why the shaker is on a table. For the chefs to call judgment of being “chopped’ because something in their mind isn’t ‘salted’ is ludicrous, they should be tasting the ‘food product’ whatever it be .. not salt.

    • Ruth Ann says:

      I am a common person and I have the same complaint as Chef Zakarian. I really hate paying a resturant for bland food. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so it does not matter how many different spices/herbs you put in a dish without a proper amount of salt it will be lacking "something" when you taste it. If you want to have less salt added to your food, then you need to add it when cooking it. The heat intensifies the flavor like it does with spices and herbs. So you need less. If you wait until food is served to you to add salt, you must add so much more in order to get flavor out of the dish.

    • tdchef says:

      Salt activates flavor receptors and your taste buds on your tongue. They (the judges) mean that the food should be "properly salted". This will help the use of fresh herbs, roasted garlic, etc. stand out, and flavors that the person eating the plate can taste while eating. Improper salting can result in a poor flavor combination or an over-salty meal. The reason the judges are so hard on this point, is because this is one of the first things you are taught, or that you should have learned. The salt and pepper shakers on the table are for guests who may like it saltier or with more pepper.

  9. Lou says:

    Reality shows…Blaaah. Read recipes, adjust for your taste and cook at home. Every time I eat out there is usually way too much food and I usually think to myself that "I could do this too" then go home and give it a whirl.

  10. Grizzly says:

    How about a new show – cooking at a campsite? – NO ovens – limited dishes – cooking and serving – Beats the heck out of Doughnut Wars!

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