Did You Miss the Meat? — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, June 18th, 2013

In most Chopped baskets, it’s the meaty protein or shellfish that trips up competitors, what with these ingredients that tend to be difficult to break down, clean, and cook properly and fully in a hurry. But in tonight’s brand-new episode of Chopped, the contestants found themselves with vegetarian baskets, which meant that when it came time for an After Hours competition, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag and Marc Murphy were challenged to create entrees using golden beets, wheatgrass, tempeh and etrog citron.

While Alex and Marc admitted to being unfamiliar with cooking and eating these kinds of ingredients, Amanda told them, “I eat this stuff,” and she later admitted to being “a closet vegetarian.” For all three judges, the challenge was offering dishes that were both bold and hefty enough to be filling. Amanda stuck to a classic preparation of tempeh by featuring it in a spiced stew with curry, while Alex treated the tempeh like rice, turning it into a risotto-style plate with mushrooms and citrus. Marc, however, known for his fondness of meat-and-potatoes classics, made a tempeh-based burger that was anything but vegetarian, thanks to beef broth and bacon. After tasting each of their offerings, guest host Aarón told them: “I’m not crying for meat right now. You made satisfying meals that really sort of constituted a complete dish.”

Alex says, “I think it’s really great to have an experience where people can see that we, as judges, whether we’re cooking or eating these ingredients, we learn and grow from them, too.” But when it comes to the judges taking on mystery baskets, do you think these vegetarian-minded ingredients were challenging enough for them, or did the ingredients prove to be too easy of a selection? Did you miss seeing a particularly perplexing meat in the mix, or was the oddity of these products enough to satisfy your craving for the unusual? Which judge used the ingredients best in his or her dish, and whose final offering looked most appealing? Click the play button on the video above to see Alex, Amanda and Marc in action, then chat with fellow fans in the comments section below about what went down. Plus, browse behind-the-scenes photos from the battle to see inside the Chopped Kitchen.

<img style=”display: none;” src=”http://img.foodnetwork.com/FOOD/2013/06/10/TIRE_Amanda-Freitag-Marc-Murphy-Alex-Guarnaschelli-Aaron-Sanchez_s4x3_lg.jpg” alt=”” />

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Comments (63)

  1. Barbara Pokras says:

    Thrilled to see you legitimize a plant-based cuisine. I love Chopped but am often turned off by the handling of meat, especially when a "live" ingredient — soft shell crab, for instance, is gleefully hacked while still squirming. Yuck!

  2. Bob says:

    Great show. How about a Chopped show where all the chefs are vegetarian or vegan?

    • jalp says:

      Which this wasn't, of course . . . it was only an *ingredient*-themed show, like other ingredient- or technique-themed shows before.

      For that matter, how about a vegetarian/vegan *series*, FN? If you want an example, take a look at "Christina Cooks" on PBS Create, maybe. . . .

  3. KAREN says:

    I love this show, but it seems like Alex has become the "meanest" critic since she battled on Iron Chef.

  4. Chfan1 says:

    A vegetarian show is a great idea! Alex has an amazing sense of humor and I enjoy watching her. Amanda is just amazing. Good for her that she is a vegetarian and the way she said it was clever and priceless.

  5. Mimi says:

    I'm a fan of the show but the last episode was so unfair. I can't believe it. It seems to me that they wanted the vegan chef to win. When there were chefs with shellfish intolerance guess what was in the basket, shrimp.

  6. Carol Maddox says:

    I have seen vegetarian chefs compete with meat on Chopped a few times in the past. I don't understand the anger in some of the above comments. I do not need another meat recipe! The whole Food Network Lineup is focused on meat. I need some tasty veggie recipes for my family and appreciated this focus on vegetables and actually learned something.

    • Margi says:

      The anger may come from the fact that the competition was clearly set up to favor the vegan chef. I'm fine with vegan food, but how many times have Jewish chefs been given pork and chefs with seafood allergies been given seafood? They were actually apologetic that they gave the vegan honey and didn't realize that was an animal derived food. I thought this was a cooking competition, but I guess it's just TV after all.

      • jalp says:

        It seems to me that those other examples were somewhat randomly chosen ingredients, whereas this time FN had an intentional theme (like their recent all-grilling, all-frying, etc, etc shows) and *thought* they'd chosen a vegan menu — and then got their attention drawn to the mistake.

  7. Rich says:

    My wife and I are fans of Chopped, However both my wife and I got so upset with the no protein show…..What a setup to let one Chef win over others…This vegan Chef was cocky besides. To be fair the show should invited the other three chefs back to compete on a normal day in the chopped kitchen. As for the Vegan chef….I have just one thing to say……Yes, I love animals too….fried, baked or broiled.
    Chopped really needs to get it credibility back and invite those three chefs back.

  8. Keit says:

    I would like to see more vegetarian baskets, with vegetarian chefs, or not. Part of the idea is to see if chefs can incorporate all kinds of items, why not vegetarian proteins?

  9. denlea says:

    It's about time the Food Network acknowledged plant foods. The idea that it was unfair a vegan chef won is ridiculous. Many, many episodes featured kosher chefs, preparing pork, vegetarian chefs preparing meat, chefs with allergies using the very thing they are allergic to, as well as many things chefs had no idea how to use them. Please, this basket should have easy for any chef. It's not as though meat was even off limits, and the fact the one using bacon couldn't save himself from judges pleading for meat speaks volumes.
    Please feature more vegan shows! There are so many chefs I'd love to see featured

    • Margaret says:

      If the show was not designed to favor the vegan chef, why did they apologize for giving him honey? Never seen them apologize for an ingredient before.

      • jalp says:

        Because they didn't think (or research) ahead enough to recognize that honey is an animal product and, so, not vegan. (Unlike the situations with kosher/vegetarian/allergic chefs, where they knew what the limitations were/would be. I almost wonder if the episode with a chef allergic to shellfish and two rounds of shellfish was an earlier wake-up call to FN to pay attention to diet limitations — and maybe this one represents a dawning attention paid to diet choices.)

  10. Margi says:

    After watching this episode, I'll expect to never see another Jewish chef get pork in the mystery basket or see any chef get an item they are allergic to. I am open to all foods, but I cannot recall ever seeing an episode of Chopped where they so totally catered to one chef. Sorry for the pun, and oh yea, sorry we put honey in your basket. We didn't know. Taking it off my DVR list. I need a break.

    • jalp says:

      The presence of the honey shows how much more even food experts like FN and the "Chopped" judges can learn about vegetarian and vegan diets — and help the audience learn, too. Here's hoping they will keep up that good work!

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