Recently, FN Dish caught up with Ted Allen, the multitalented host of Chopped, for a Facebook chat. Ted answered all kinds of questions about the show, including what the judges are like in person and what the competition is like behind the scenes. Fans also wondered whether Ted ever gets to taste the food and if he’ll ever compete himself.
Read highlights from Ted’s Facebook chat below:
Teri Callender: Why is it you always go ask the contestants questions when they only have 30 minutes to prepare a meal to win 10,000?
Ted Allen: Because mean producers make me! Would YOU want to interrupt Marcus while he’s cooking? He’s so intensely focused.
Christina Marie: When can we see a gag reel of Chopped? I always wonder what the judges are actually saying!
TA: It’s even funnier (and a little more blue). We should do Chopped ‘Late Night’!
Kevin Homer: Do you ever see a basket and wish you could be competing?
TA: Ironically, I am the slowest cook in the world. The working title for my cookbook was Dinner By 10?
Michelle Nihiser: Would love to have Andrew Zimmern pick out the basket
Steve Campitelli: Peanut butter, licorice, squid and Turkish taffy: How fast can you make someone puke?
TA: You know what? Nobody has ever thrown up on the show — at least not on camera.
Meg Martin: How long does an average taping take? Is it true each chef gets to see the ingredients before filming? You rock — let’s see your skills in the kitchen!
TA: It’s about a 12-hour day. The contestants most certainly do NOT get to see ingredients beforehand — we want them to be shocked and scared. And thanks, but I’m gonna stick to cooking in my own kitchen.
Teri Doolittle: Do you or the judges ever go visit the restaurants of the contestants after they have been on the show? Some of them seem so wonderful, even the ones who don’t win the competition; they just seem like the kind of people anyone would want to know in their own comfort zones.
TA: All the time! Vinson Petrillo cooks in an AMAZING restaurant right in my Brooklyn neighborhood.
Shelby Larkin: I’ve always wondered how much research you personally do about the contestants before they step foot on the show. Do you take the time to learn about their styles of cooking or what ingredients they might be used to using (so you can avoid them)?
TA: Our producers do extensive research on contestants and ingredients, and they give us a report on them each morning.
Keenya Scott Are the ingredient combinations really random? Who decides?
TA: Not random; there’s always an idea in the basket. Often, though, it’s still pretty weird.
Jim Murphy: Is the food cold when it gets to the judges?
TA: Almost always. Occupational hazard. They usually run over to the stoves the moment a cooking round ends so they can taste components the way they were intended.
Jessica Wallace: Do you ever get to try the food that the contestants cook?
TA: Yep, Geoffrey makes me a perfect little bite when it’s really good.
Rachael Ivey: I’ve noticed sometimes the competitors are so evenly matched that the judges have trouble deciding who should win. Do you ever give your input? Maybe on creativity and presentation, if you don’t actually taste it?
TA: Oh, sure. I’m commenting all the time, including during judging. I don’t usually taste the food, though, so I defer to the judges.
Monica Jancek-Daigle: Have you ever had a competitor refuse to talk to you while they’re cooking? I’ve seen chefs run away while you’re talking.
TA: Anne Burrell told me to take a hike.
Lynn Carson Gillingham: I always wonder who cleans up. Everything looks so neat and clean by the time the contestants return for the chopping.
TA: Great question! We have a hugely dedicated team of cleanup folks — the same team has been doing it since we started, and they are fast, thorough and a delight to be around. I’m impressed with their esprit de corps — it is a tough job. Chefs don’t care HOW messy things get!
Karen Kappes Shupp: There should be an “average Joe” judge in addition to the other three — someone off the street, not culinary trained, just the average restaurant patron. Sometimes I wonder whether the high level of culinary training and experience of those judges sometimes gets in the way of a true, objective assessment of the appeal of a dish. After all, these contestants serve 99 percent real people in real life, not culinary experts.
TA: I hear you, but I don’t agree. I want the judging done by people with extensive culinary knowledge. I feel the same about restaurant critics, which is why I don’t use Yelp or Zagat to choose a restaurant.
Valerie Richardson: Ted, it would be good to see you host a Chopped ‘Secrets Revealed’ special that would give tips and background stories without ruining the making of Chopped!
TA: Totally. Great idea!
Mykal Mason: Love Alex. Is she as mean as she looks?
TA: She’s a sweetheart! All you have to do is mention babies and she bursts into tears.
Tracy Lynn Kievits: If you could make up one of the baskets, what would you throw in there?
TA: Bone-in rib eye, Dijon mustard, onions (to caramelize), black pepper
Tina Francis: What’s your least favorite food?
TA: I’m not much for cartilage, so you can have the chicken feet.
Nina Koridek: Wondering what you feel is the greatest transgression on Chopped: leaving a basket ingredient out of the finished dish, or not repurposing a basket ingredient (or ingredients) or a really terrible looking presentation? Does the attitude of a contestant ever come into play?
TA: This is what is interesting — it’s always different. All of those factors matter. We try not to ding people for being bratty, but, hey, the judges are human. Except for Geoffrey.
Kat Wilder Kotrla: I want to see Ted compete on Chopped! Or, even better, Ted vs. Alton Brown on Iron Chef America! ‘Battle of the Hosts’!
TA: No. However, I would trade places with Alton for a day!
Debbie Jean Hibbard: You’ve judged on Iron Chef America, You’ve written a cookbook and you host Chopped. Now it’s your turn to show us what you’ve got. Sounds reasonable.
TA: Debbie, I’m just a very avid cook — no culinary school, no years banging out 500 covers a night on the line. I’d be bringing a whisk to a gunfight against some serrrrrrrious gunslingers.