by Joseph Erdos in Shows, March 31st, 2015
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, February 24th, 2015
The chefs of Chopped were sure surprised to see basket ingredients in disguise in tonight’s April Fools’ episode. Presented with ingredients that appeared to be peas and carrots, grilled cheese, tomato soup and milk, what they actually had were candies, pound cake, strawberry puree and buttermilk. After the episode, the judges — Amanda Freitag, Geoffrey Zakarian and Alex Guarnaschelli — face the dessert round in an all-new Chopped After Hours, cooking with the same deceiving ingredients.
“I have great news! We’re bringing in massage therapists,” says Ted. “I’ve also got vintage Champagne.” But before he goes any further, he blurts out, “None of that is true. It’s our April Fools’ episode!” The baskets were designed to fool the chefs, but the judges feel it’s their duty to bring that same spirit to their dishes. “It’s up to us to have our own version of a reaction to April Fools’,” says Alex, who’s got a few tricks up her sleeve — although Ted may have an even bigger trick up his.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, January 20th, 2015
Late-night cravings can be pretty weird sometimes, especially when it comes to the types of foods eaten in succession, or even all at once. That was exactly the theme of tonight’s Chopped
episode in which the competitors found themselves cooking with mystery baskets full of late-night combinations. And after the episode, the judges — Geoffrey Zakarian, Scott Conant and Maneet Chauhan — face the dessert round in an all-new Chopped After Hours
, cooking with a rice and cheese burrito, chocolate milk, whipped cream and apple pie.
“I hate to admit this, but I love these apple pies,” confesses Scott, for what Ted Allen explains is “not the kind your grandma used to make but the kind you might get at a convenience store.” Geoffrey pokes fun at the comment, saying, “I actually got all these things at the gas station on the way here.” Ted underlines the difficulty they might have working with processed foods. But Geoffrey isn’t fazed, as he explains “that any of these foods will taste better with some alcohol.”
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, December 2nd, 2014
For the Chopped
judges, there is no such thing as too bizarre a basket. They’re willing and able to take on even the weirdest one of all. And the entree round from tonight’s Chopped episode was pretty odd, to say the least, containing goat heads, flaming shiso, blue foot mushrooms and kholodets. Judges Chris Santos, Alex Guarnaschelli and Geoffrey Zakarian were excited to get their hands on these ingredients without any aversions — except for maybe Chris, who thinks, of all the ingredients, the kholodets, a Russian jellied meat dish, looks the least appetizing.
Ted Allen wonders if they have any ideas for these unusual ingredients. “I’m quite certain based on history we’re going to come up with three wildly different ideas,” Chris tells Ted about the possibilities that the basket presents. “I think this is a great basket to showcase using ingredients we might not otherwise think are going to become anything,” says Alex. With just 30 minutes on the clock, the judges get right to cooking. “It’s so serious in here,” says Ted. “You guys do know that no one is getting chopped, right?”
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, September 30th, 2014
When you think of the word “meatballs,” what comes to mind? It’s probably something different for everyone: It could be spaghetti and meatballs or Swedish meatballs, a meatball grinder or meatballs made with something other than beef or pork. On tonight’s episode of Chopped
, the chefs face cooking meatballs out of their mystery baskets in every round. And the Chopped judges decided to get in on the fun, too, taking on the appetizer basket from the show on After Hours
Faced with the ingredients lamb shanks, fresh ginger, baby leeks and one outlier, creme brulee, the judges have 30 minutes to make a meatball dish, but each one takes a very different direction. “We have no choice but to grind this stuff,” says Scott about the lamb shanks, which can take a long time to cook. But he turns on a dime when it comes time to cook, deciding to braise the lamb shanks to make a ragu with vegetarian “meatballs” made out of spinach, leeks and ricotta.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, August 26th, 2014
When it comes to creating a successful dessert, it’s often about striking the right balance. Cloyingly sweet is not necessarily how you want to finish a meal, especially on Chopped
. When presented with a dessert basket consisting of some of the most-sugary processed items, the two finalists (a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old) on Short Order Cooks stayed mainly within the sweet confines of the basket, whereas the judges take it one step further, bringing in savory notes, but with one holdout: Geoffrey, who says, “I’m going right at the sweetness.”
“All the best restaurants in the country are sort of tilting away from excessive sweetness,” Ted infers from what Alex and Chris are saying about taking the baskets, containing banana pudding, vanilla ice cream, icing and brownie mix, in a slightly savory direction. “You could kind of just put all this together and be done,” says Alex, baking a warm brownie and topping it with a scoop of ice cream, but “the challenge is to figure out something to make that reinvents what’s here.” Chris adds, “I think that’s the only route you can go,” taking it down a savory road.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, August 20th, 2014
When faced with an ingredient like eel, most chefs would run the other way, but the judges on Chopped After Hours
take the challenge in stride: “You think some slippery eels are going to shake our nerves?” retorts Aarón. Geoffrey recommends that the skin be removed, which is an important step. Only one pro chef managed to serve his dish with eel that had the skin removed in the appetizer round of the Ultimate Champions premiere. His dish turned out to be the judges’ favorite, but the other dishes left something to be desired — i.e., no skin.
Geoffrey, Chris and Aarón are cooking with the appetizer basket ingredients — eel, pepihuates, shaved coconut and sea beans — from tonight’s episode. Even though Geoffrey points out they’re not equipped to properly skin an eel, the three judges cleverly decide to parboil it first, which makes removing the skin and bones much easier compared with how the episode’s chefs struggled. The only ingredient that leaves Geoffrey flummoxed is the pepihuates. “Watch me magically transform it,” Chris asserts. Aarón explains it’s simply a Mexican tomato-based snack/drink with peanuts and a tamarind stick — not unlike a Bloody Mary, Ted thinks.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, August 19th, 2014
Needless to say, the judges on Chopped know a thing or two about cooking, so watching from the sidelines gives them a unique perspective on the competition. With Food Network’s exclusive Web series Chopped After Hours, they have the opportunity to leave behind the judging table and cook with the same mystery basket ingredients that have sent competitors home. On Tuesday, August 26 at 11|10c, Chopped After Hours is coming to television in a special episode.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, July 15th, 2014
judges have always had their place behind the judging table, but when there’s an opportunity like After Hours
, allowing them to come out from behind and get in the kitchen, they’re happier than pigs in mud. Ted points out that “rather than watching from the sidelines, complaining about other people’s cooking,” the judges can be front and center. But Scott doesn’t leave it at that, and he jokes, “Now it gives people the opportunity to complain about our cooking.” But considering how great the basket is, they’re more excited than usual to get cooking: “I’m dying to cook this. I’m really antsy and raring to go,” he says.
“This is not the little piggy that went to market,” says Ted. “This is the star of our food truck and food cart entree round.” Amanda, Aarón and Scott are taking on the ingredients from tonight’s episode: whole suckling pig, fiddlehead ferns, kebab sauces and corn tortillas. All the judges are excited to work with the basket, as Amanda points out, “because there are so many options.” Scott, though, jokes that Aarón is probably going to make tacos because there are tortillas — and, well, Scott’s right.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, February 11th, 2014
When it comes to cooking, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are — it’s the food that matters. And the teens on Part 1 of tonight’s Chopped
Teen Tournament proved that talent is ageless. But, when it comes to the judges of Chopped After Hours, age doesn’t matter when it comes to letting loose, which is all too easy for them. As Ted points out in this all-new episode: “This is going to be tough for you,” as he asks the judges to act more mature than normal.
Amanda, Aarón and Scott take on the appetizer-basket ingredients from tonight’s episode. The ingredients include cherry drink pickles, lamb chops, kale chips and ricotta salata. Creating an appetizer out of these ingredients is all about finding the right balance and proportion — after all, it is an appetizer. The teen chefs learned, though the hard way, that cooking lamb chops on the bone isn’t possible in such a short amount of time, so quick thinking is necessary, especially when it comes to forming a plan B or C.
When it comes to chocolate, most people think it’s meant for only dessert. But for chefs, especially Chopped-caliber chefs, it’s just another ingredient to transform. If they get chocolate in an entree basket — and in the case of the Chocolate Competition episode, they got chocolate items in every single basket — the chefs take on the challenge of creating savory dishes in stride. And the Chopped judges are no different.
In an episode of Chopped After Hours, Maneet, Marc and Aarón entered the Chopped kitchen to cook with the entree basket ingredients: chocolate cake pops, white chocolate cocoa mix, quail and serrano chiles. On the show, the three chef-competitors all seemed to have the most trouble with incorporating the chocolate cake pops, mainly because of their cakey centers. But not so for the judges, who used the pops in a marinade, mole sauce and stuffing — all their dishes proved to be enhanced by the chocolate treat. In the end Ted was amazed by all of their dishes: “I never would have thought cake pops and quail would have been so tasty.”