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. J.J. says:

    I agree that salt can be a problem for some and not all, but how about making it more of a challenge on Chopped and use spices only to flavor food with no salt added or allowed at all. Then there should be no excuses from the judges on flavor!! And yes Food Network, practice what you preach, if one chef can drink directly from a bottle and get away with it gracefully then the others should not be dinged for it….do you not watch any of the reruns?? And the hair, sweat, double dipping and so on…have someone serve that with your dinner when your not looking. And one more question….when you cook do you pass these tests without fail????

  2. Becky says:

    I also take issue with chopping someone and/or dissing a dish due to lack of salt. It is a matter of personal taste and our family has seriously cut back on salt and have too often had restaurant food served with too much salt. Have seen too many chefs or kitchen staff outside restaurants smoking which is known to distort tastes. My husband and I are non-smokers and I believe that is one of the reasons some food is over salted. A non-smoking friend, trying to cut back on salt due to health reasons took a culinary course. Frequently the instructors would taste his food and say, " good but needs more salt" but not to the person who would rather taste the food and not the salt.

    • Jeremy says:

      You say you've too often had restaurant food served with too much salt? You yourself said right before that the amount of salt someone likes in their food is a matter of personal taste… Also, I just did a lot of research on the smoking matter, and found that smoking around food makes it more bland, not more salty like you said. I found several sites saying that after you QUIT smoking, food tastes more salty, not WHILE you're smoking.

  3. @LindySez says:

    Too much salt in most restaurant food makes those chefs think that not enough was used elsewhere. I have had many a fine dining meal ruined by too much salt. Stop smoking and you will taste the seasoning AND the food

  4. Old wife stories, not to use salt for health reasons. Use salt but use it as it is intended for. If you eat pasta everyday, or twice a day, you will get fat. There is nothing more tasty than a pinch of salt, even in your sweet pumpkin! Talking about illnesses, dictating by the doctors, "not to use salt", take it with a pinch of salt! Food without salt is absolutely tasteless. Why would we say, " a person is the salt of the earth". He or she is worthy! Go back to basics! Use salt and if you like pepper, use it for that extra bit of spice to life.

    • @kindallas says:

      Lize, there are medical conditions where salt intake is a question of life vs. death. Please study up on your biology, and physiology before making such proclamations. Additionally, your statement about pasta is completely false.

  5. ACG Boston says:

    I thought the biggest Chopped mistake would be truffle oil! It's a sure bet for getting the axe! LOL!

  6. Geo says:

    I am VERY conscious of my sodium intake due to heart problems, and I ALWAYS use salt when I cook. The worst offenders of sodium content are canned goods, frozen foods, and of course fast foods and processed foods. The phrase "salt to taste" means just that, but I really take offense to "chefs" such as Anne Burrell throwing in handful after literal handful of salt into everything she cooks. I realized she was out of her mind the day I watched her show and she added a ton of salt to prosciutto … PROSCIUTTO!

  7. Ed Fisher says:

    Why is it that Chopped only has one ice cream maker? Is it just the drama of beating out a competitor?

  8. Nikki says:

    I just watched an episode where the chef cut himself right before he plated. It must have been so disappointing to get eliminated on the appetizer round. I'm surprised watching so many episodes back to back how many people cut themselves.
    I think it would be cool if they brought back 4 people who cut themselves and give them a second chance.

  9. Marilyn says:

    It bothers me that there is not enough hand washing and people do not wear gloves to handle the food. Even in our little synagogue kitchen, we have signs all over the place to wash our hands before touching food, plates, cutlery and gloves are provided and required when we dig our hands into foods.

  10. SLS says:

    Grossiest things about Chopped and all other Food Network shows–wild, unrestrained hair; seemingly poor hand hygiene; top ugh–failing to remove finger/hand jewelry and then using those hands IN the food. Absolutely disgusting. The departed Paula Deen was the worst but plenty of others qualify.

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