The wildly popular show Chopped films here, in New York City, right next to Food Network Kitchen in a giant studio that houses a chaotic frenzy of mystery baskets, eager cooks and expert judges. But there’s an entire behind-the-scenes crew of incredibly talented people who keep the machine that is Chopped well oiled. There are a million moving parts to the show, and rarely is there downtime on set, so I took advantage of one of their small breaks and took some photos of the eerily quiet kitchen (I hope they don’t mind!). Take a look at these insider photos below.
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In case you missed it, last week FoodNetwork.com and HGTV.com came together in the Scripps Lifestyle Studios to host the ultimate live holiday cookie party on Facebook (watch the three segments here, here and here). Justin Warner hosted the event, and I had the pleasure of nerding out with him and Michelle Buffardi, from FoodNetwork.com, on chocolate chip cookie recipes.
One of my favorite parts of the day was the unveiling of the gingerbread house that recipe developer Melissa Gaman and FoodNetwork.com’s Eric Kim (with special help from Mory Thomas and Miriam Garron) worked on ALL DAY! Viewers had a ton of questions about the construction of the house, so here are some of their building tips:
The Secret Roof Compartment (pictured above): Melissa cleverly turned our house into a surprise cookie jar. Here’s how she did it: She cut one of the roof sides into two pieces and “glued” the bottom piece, with royal icing, onto the house. The removable piece simply sat on top without needing to be affixed to the house. Then the whole roof was decorated in almond shingles that covered the seam to the secret panel!
I wish you could actually smell the photos here. We had nearly 700 speckled bananas in the Food Network Kitchen walk-in just a couple of weeks ago, and their intense perfume almost knocked my socks off. They were that perfect kind of ripe, ideal for banana bread (which these guys were destined for). Culinary Purchasing Manager Jacob Schiffman had ordered about 100 unripe bunches nearly a week before and had patiently let them ripen at room temperature. But measuring out the ingredients for 200 loaves of banana bread, for a special event, takes time, so to keep them from overripening he moved the bananas into the cold to slow down the process.
Jacob also shared a great tip for keeping your bananas from ripening too fast: Break them apart as soon as you get them home, since a single banana can ripen the whole bunch (he’s got a million handy produce tips like this). And unless you’re planning on making banana bread, it’s a great tip for getting more life out of your fruit.
In our 22 years of producing and airing cooking and food television shows, we’ve amassed quite a collection of props in our vast prop room, everything from fine china to vintage utensils (there’s even a ukulele). We recently decided to dust off some of our more interesting pieces and hand them over to artist Deniz Asutay, who masterfully converted them into large-scale collages. She created 16 in all, and now our office walls are adorned with eye-catching pieces that help tell our story in a way that’s every bit as visually appealing as the food the props helped make beautiful these past two decades.
You may have heard of Food Network Kitchen, which is housed inside the famous Chelsea Market in NYC. But what is it, exactly? Well, FNK (as we like to call ourselves) is a team of about 30 people who develop, test and edit recipes, write about and photograph food, and work as culinary producers on many of your favorite Food Network shows. From the moment we step into the kitchen/office, we are completely immersed in all things food. And it’s awesome.
On a warm afternoon a few days back, the Food Network culinary team took the F train to the banks of the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn’s very own Superfund site, for a private tour of Gotham Greens’ third New York sustainable farm. “Don’t touch the greens,” Nicole Baum, Gotham’s marketing and partnerships manager, tells us on the way up to the roof. This is a rare event — to keep the facility sterile, the farm is closed to the public.
It’s hard not to rub a leaf or two between our fingers as we wander through rows of spiky lettuces and purple baby kale. We can smell the basil as we walk toward the herbs; Nicole says that during the daily morning harvest, the whole roof fills with the smell as workers snip and pack it to sell in the store below. That’s hyperlocal distribution, and it keeps GG’s carbon footprint to a minimum. (And allowed Gotham to deliver locally when Hurricane Sandy shut down most access to the city.)
Many people know Michael Symon as the meat guy on Food Network. If you’ve ever heard him talk about meat, you would never think he even eats vegetables. So when FN Dish caught up with the host of Burgers, Brew & ‘Que and asked him to offer up some surprising facts about himself, Michael was a little skeptical, saying, “I feel like I’ve been on TV so long that they know everything.” However, even we were surprised to hear some of the facts he revealed: Let’s just say even the meat guy gets in his greens.
Get to know Michael Symon better and discover some aspects about his life that might surprise you.
For the second time in the show’s history, Chopped headed out of the studio and into the great outdoors for Grill Masters. The cast traded in their dress shoes and city blacks for boots and overalls — well, almost! Production moved the entire crew to Queens County Farm on the outskirts of New York City to tape the special grilling tournament, premiering July 14 at 10|9c. FN Dish caught up with host Ted Allen to chat about the challenges the location posed as well as the challenges the competitors will face.
“We’re a studio show, for the most part, and you forget how easy you have it shooting indoors,” says Ted, referring to the fact that Chopped tapes at Food Network headquarters in New York City, which is a whole lot comfier than roughing it in the Tucson desert like the cast and crew did for the previous Grill Masters season — just think sand everywhere. For Season 2 everything still had to happen outdoors, and even though a more convenient location was chosen, it didn’t mean it would be that much easier — there was still the chance of inclement weather, among other uncontrollable factors.
While Cutthroat Kitchen may serve as home to Food Network’s most-diabolical cooking arena, it’s also a fully functional and well-outfitted kitchen, brimming with hundreds of ingredients, dozens of pots and pans, and enough tools and equipment to arm four chefs in battle — plus a single briefcase filled with $100,000, of course. Recently FN Dish traveled to the set of Cutthroat Kitchen for an insider’s look at what makes the space so special, including its close-quartered pantry, wall-to-wall shelves of gear and the chalkboard full of evilicious inspiration. We also caught up with Katie Allen, the show’s culinary producer, who’s responsible for equipping the kitchen, and she dished that during each week of filming, her team accepts a delivery of “43 boxes of vegetables, fruits and herbs,” and that’s just for the fresh produce. When it comes to food prep, there are some “86 pots and pans available on set”; for plating, no fewer than “27 varieties of plates, 16 varieties of bowls, 9 different types of glasses, and 21 different types of small dipping bowls, plates and spoon options” are available to the chefs during the contest.
Click the photo below to check out a behind-the-scenes photo tour of the set and peek inside the refrigerator, and look up close at the myriad ingredients, serving pieces, tools and utensils at the ready in each battle.
by Sunny Anderson
Haaaiii! It’s Sunny Anderson on the FN Dish check-in. On behalf of Katie Lee, Marcela Valladolid, Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey “GZ” Zakarian, as well as the crew, set design, culinary staff, producers and more — welcome to The Kitchen. I’ve been asked to share some behind-the-scenes bits. Make sure to come back next week when Jeff shares what’s really happening on set!
I hope you enjoyed the show and found it to be something you can put to work in your very own kitchen. This is the first of what we hope to be many episodes that will share recipes, quick fixes and fun chats about all things food and entertaining. Speaking of entertaining, I am too excited that I got to share the Lotus Flower Candle with you today. I’ve been holding it for months wanting to blab all about it on social media. In a world where I tweet cute pics of my cats sleeping, it’s easy to say keeping this cool entertainment “gadget” to myself for so long was hard. I really like this show for that reason — it’s truly host driven, with a huge help of a production staff. We all bring ideas from our personal lives to share with you. It reminds me of show-and-tell in grade school. I still don’t know how the crew disabled the flower so it wouldn’t play the costly “Happy Birthday” song. Just know if you look for them online, all of the ones I’ve found play the tune, so hopefully you get it for someone’s birthday cake or you know someone crafty who can disable the music. Where’s MacGruber when you need him?