Some of the mystery basket ingredients that get used on Chopped are pretty unusual, to say the least. But the culinary producers who come up with them don’t just draw them out of a hat — though sometimes it does seem that way! They take their time to decide on the ingredients, making sure the basket components are just right and actually manageable. FN Dish queried the culinary producers to find out the top 16 weirdest basket ingredients they’ve had on the show. The list of ingredients ranged from goat brains to gummy eggs over easy — almost no ingredient is off-limits.
Now it’s up to you, Chopped fans, to vote on the ingredient you think is the weirdest of them all in this four-round bracket tournament, which coincides with the new season of Chopped All-Stars.
On Friday, May 3, the James Beard Foundation will have its annual Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards. And this year, Food Network’s own Ted Allen has the honor of hosting the event, one of the biggest in the culinary world. Ted isn’t a stranger to the awards — last year he was the winner for best Media Personality/Host for Chopped, beating out Ina Garten and Sara Moulton. Chopped also won for best Television Program in a Studio or Fixed Location. With all his experience hosting, the JBF awards should be a piece of cake for Ted. But does he have anything to fear?
We caught up with Ted to chat about his hosting responsibilities, his view on the awards ceremony and what he thinks is the next big thing to look out for in the food world.
Read Ted’s interview below
“Use a little or a lot; I heard Ted say it before,” Marc Murphy told substitute host Alex Guarnaschelli during tonight’s premiere episode of Chopped After Hours
. He and his competitors, fellow judges Aarón Sánchez and Chris Santos, opted to use only one portion of what was unquestionably the out-of-place ingredient in tonight’s mystery basket: coconut-chocolate bars. With just 30 minutes to cook an entree with the candy, plus pink beans, sofrito and striped bass, the guys didn’t have time to incorporate the bar as a whole, so they picked out of it elements that would be successful in their dishes. For Marc, who in a risky maneuver set off to make a cassoulet, and Chris, who prepared a Thai-style soup, it was the coconut center that was the chosen fraction; Aarón picked out the almonds to feature in his Louisiana-inspired plate of fish and grits.
What do you think of the judges using only a select portion of a mystery basket ingredient? Although doing so may indeed be battling within the rules, should they have worked harder to utilize the candy bar as a whole, or does its unusualness make up for the fact that it wasn’t incorporated fully? If a contestant had done that during competition, would the judges have been as accepting of his or her dish?
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On tonight’s all-new episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (10pm/9c), Guy’s hitting the road in search of classic comfort foods across the country. His first stop is The Stockyards: Smokehouse & Larder in Toronto, where he’ll sample the ultimate indulgent burger and a next-level BLT. Later he’s off to Burbank, Calif., for real-deal chili at Chili John’s before he heads back east. In Philadelphia, he’s visiting Sidecar Bar & Grille, known as much for its french fries as its nontraditional clam chowder filled with a secret ingredient: gnocchi.
Before you tune in to tonight’s premiere, don’t miss Guy in a marathon of some of your favorite Triple D episodes. He’ll be stopping by Phoenix’s Chino Bandido, an eclectic hot spot combining Chinese and Caribbean fare in almost 100,000 different dishes, then setting off to find restaurants from coast to coast that refuse to stick to the norm. In Lesage, W.Va., he visits a hot dog stand serving customers in reclaimed school buses. In Miami, Fla., he’s digging into the French-inspired escargot at Scully’s Tavern, a local a dive bar.
Take the trip with him starting at 6pm/5c — follow along and bookmark the restaurants as he goes, and try your hand at the recipes.
From north and south to east and west, Guy’s been everywhere. Next time you’re traveling, download the On the Road app or check out this map to find all of Guy’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives destinations.
Go behind the scenes with Guy
Every week, Justin Warner, winner of Food Network Star Season 8, is back remixing the Chopped All-Stars baskets as seen in the episode Sunday night in pure Justin Warner style: edgy, intense, passionate and full of wit. If you’ve ever watched an episode and found yourself yelling at the TV, “I would have made this and that instead!” then these are the posts for you.
by Justin Warner
Welcome to the fourth installment of the Chopped All-Stars Rebel Remix, wherein I attempt to give you drilling rights on my brain as I attempt to assemble an array of exciting edibles from four seemingly incongruous ingredients.
Appetizer: vanilla cupcakes, chicken tenders, avocados, kochujang
I’ve been doing this “write about Chopped” thing for a little bit now, and this basket is just too freaking insane. Cupcakes? Really? Before assembling these ingredients, I would look around: I want to know which contender offended the Basket Curators in a previous life. This is a bad, bad basket. Personally, I also abhor chicken tenders. They are too perfect, too cookie cutter. Meat should have personality and character! I digress. Kochujang, or gochujang, is a Korean pepper paste. It’s got earth and funk and a little heat. I’ve seen a few Korean grandmas dilute it with lemon-lime soda, and in my restaurant I use it to glaze frog’s legs. Avocados are no biggie. What isn’t good with a slice of avocado? This leaves the cupcakes. Why?! It’s like someone is trying to cause grief and pain. At least they are vanilla, which is a great flavor with chicken. Before you get bent out of shape, consider that bourbon chicken sounds delish and that bourbon often contains vanillin, which is the chemical compound for which vanilla was named, so vanilla and chicken are best buds. Capish?
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While there were indeed substantial problems with the food as well as the interior design at Smitty’s Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., the gravest issue came in the form of bugs — an entire infestation of cockroaches, in fact. Overrun with these crawly creatures, husband-and-wife owners Gus and Evi Gialelis’ business faced certain closure if Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team couldn’t locate the source of the swarm. But to do so they’d have to rely on a professional exterminator, something that would significantly drain the overall renovation budget.
“I have never come across a restaurant this bad in my whole career,” Robert told Gus and Evi, who felt personally defeated in the wake of their struggling business. He initially questioned whether “this may be the one restaurant that’s too far gone,” but Robert’s not one to walk away from a mission, of course. And in just two days, he reopened the doors at Smitty’s to a welcoming, clean restaurant that was dishing out quality food. FN Dish checked in with Evi a few weeks after the reopening to find out how the restaurant is doing today.
Smitty’s has seen an increase in business since the show taped, and Evi says she’s noticing many first-time customers at the restaurant.
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Earlier on FN Dish, we broke down the second round of All-Stars, including an interview with the runner-up (spoiler alert).
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.
SPOILER ALERT: Find out who won
What do these four celebrities with different backgrounds have in common? Judy Gold, Johnny Weir, Joey Fatone and Laila Ali all share a love of cooking, and they proved that in the Chopped Kitchen tonight. Only one advanced to compete in the fourth and final spot in the finale, however, and is one step closer to winning $50,000 for his or her charity.
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the runner-up.
SPOILER ALERT: The exclusive interview with the runner-up
Earlier this week, FN Dish caught up with Aarón Sánchez for a Facebook chat about Season 3 of Chopped All-Stars. Aarón answered questions about the current season and what it was like competing in Season 1. He also chatted about some of his favorite foods and gave some tips on cooking the classic Mexican dish of mole.
Read Aarón’s chat with fans
When it comes to critiquing Chopped competitors’ unusual dishes, the judges aren’t shy about sharing their reactions to the meal; they’re quick to offer opportunities for improvement and suggestions for better offerings. If battles suddenly were to be flipped, however, and the judges faced off with the same mystery baskets as the contestants, would they be able to succeed where others have been chopped?
Last month FN Dish broke the news that for the first time, the judges will be taking over the kitchen in online-only After Hours battles, and on Tuesday, April 30, members of the panel will go head-to-head-to-head with the same ingredients that will be featured on that night’s show. After watching the competition unfold, it will be up to them to take what they’ve learned from the chefs — both successes and missteps — and try their hands at creating plates within the same set of rules and time constraints.
Take a look at the sneak-peek photo above from Tuesday’s judges’ battle. As Chris is concentrating on plating his dish, Aarón and Marc drop by for an early look at what he’s made. Are they there to distract Chris in the final few minutes of cooking, or do you think they’re asking to taste what he’s made? Will the judges prove to competitors everywhere that cooking against the Chopped clock isn’t so difficult after all, or will they struggle like seasons’ worth of competitors have before them?
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