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.
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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?
When it comes to cooking on Chopped, much is made of each round’s mystery baskets, filled with four unusual and often disparate ingredients that chefs are required to incorporate into their dishes. While these oddball picks are, of course, what add deliciously addictive intrigue and drama to the show, it takes more than just a spread of peanut brittle, Marsala wine, durian and wonton wrappers to outcook the chopping block. If the competitors want to survive three rounds of intense culinary battle, they must utilize next-level appliances and advanced tools, in addition to a myriad of common and eccentric products alike, to transform the basket ingredients and create a winning plate.
To make sure competitors can do that as efficiently as possible within the short amount of time they have to cook, the culinary team that works Chopped has outfitted each chef’s prep station with ready-to-go equipment and stocked the pantry and refrigerator with almost every ingredient imaginable. FN Dish was curious about those supplies and wanted to know what kinds of ingredients are awaiting the chefs in the multiple nooks and crannies of Chopped Kitchen, so we turned to the culinary producer of the show to answer questions and provide an insider’s look at the set. Find out what she had to say below, then get an exclusive look at the kitchen, peek inside the refrigerator and see what’s on pantry shelves by browsing behind-the-scenes photos.
About how many ingredients are stocked in the pantry and refrigerator?
About 70 in fridge and about 200 in pantry
What to Watch Sunday: Vietnamese and Italian Classics, Tiffani Thiessen on Cupcake Wars, Chopped All-Starsby Joseph Erdos in Shows, April 26th, 2013
Start the morning off this Sunday with mouthwatering new episodes of Guy’s Big Bite and Sandwich King. Guy makes a delicious meal of turkey lasagna packed with cheesy goodness and Jeff learns the secrets to making classic Vietnamese sandwiches. In the evening tune in for a special birthday treat on Cupcake Wars as the competitors battle to win the approval of guest judge and birthday girl Tiffani Thiessen. Afterward, in the fourth round of Chopped All-Stars, celebrities Johnny Weir, Joey Fatone, Laila Ali and Judy Gold descend upon the Chopped kitchen to compete for the first time. Last, Robert Irvine must contend with some creepy crawlers in his next restaurant redo.
Nikki Beach is a high-profile restaurant and resort concept with 10 international locations that cater to the wealthy. Jack and Lucia Penrod, who opened their first location in Miami Beach in 1998, were looking for an executive chef for their new location in Ibiza, Spain. Anne Burrell and the Chef Wanted team were called in to help with the search. After two grueling tests and dinner services, an offer was extended to Chef Jouvens Jean.
Chef Wanted comes to a jet-setting finish on tonight’s episode at a special time of 9pm/8c. Watch as Anne Burrell brings in four candidates who are fighting for a chance to get the executive chef position at the new Ibiza location of upscale restaurant Nikki Beach. The chefs will be put through two rigorous cooking tests at the restaurant’s Miami Beach location. The two remaining finalists will each get a chance to prove themselves to the owners in a dinner service, but only one will be offered the new position.
Right afterward at 10pm/9c, watch the premiere of Food Network’s new series Giving You the Business, hosted by NBA star Walter Bond. On this episode, four unsuspecting employees of restaurant franchise Famous Famiglia Pizzeria will be secretly tested in a series of outrageous challenges designed to gauge their skills at running a business. With hidden cameras capturing every move, the strongest candidate will walk away with the keys to the franchise.
Watch a preview of the new show
If sheer determination was the only deciding factor in who became the next Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli would have been taking on all comers in Kitchen Stadium years ago.
Unfortunately for her, in Season 4 of the show, a poorly prepared piece of lobster led to her elimination and possibly the end of her dream to join the Chairman’s elite crew.
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.
During more than 10 seasons of Iron Chef America competition, five new Iron Chefs have been welcomed to the Chairman’s elite team of culinary superstars, an ever-changing judges panel has filled the seats at the table, new rules and altered expectations have changed the way battles are done, and hundreds of Secret Ingredients have been unveiled beneath a single altar. Throughout the years of transformation and growth, have you, Iron Chef fans, kept up with what’s gone down inside Kitchen Stadium?
As you prepare for the upcoming tournament of champions (premiering Sunday, May 5 at 10pm/9c) in which the Chairman’s standing Iron Chefs will compete against one another in an unprecedented series of battles to become the Grand Champion, brush up on the ins and outs of this ultimate culinary contest. Test your memory of past battles and Iron Chefs’ winning records, plus your understanding of judging criteria and the significance of Secret Ingredients to find out if your knowledge of Iron Chef America reigns supreme.
Every Tuesday, 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 third installment of Chopped All-Stars Rebel Remix, where the things I shouted at my TV last Sunday are written for all to see.
Appetizer: harissa, diver scallops, pink grapefruit, speck
When I compose a dish, especially an appetizer, I like to consider the components in their most basic forms and build from there. A great dish has all of our tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, capsaicin, umami) some exciting texture, a great aroma and visual appeal. Harissa is spicy, scallops are sweet, grapefruit is both sour and slightly bitter, and speck is as close to salty and savory as it gets. The only way the dish resulting from this basket could be horrible is via technical difficulties, or from a cook failing to realize that these guys don’t need much coaxing to play nicely. We aren’t dealing with a mound of veggie terrine that looks like it has already been digested. We are dealing with four gems of gastronomy, and all we have to do is make a nice crown to hold the gems in place. Let’s go.