If you like cooking, eating, or watching people stress out, then Chopped on The Food Network is most likely one of your favorite TV shows. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make the show run as seamlessly as it appears. Host Ted Allen from the original Queer Eye For The Straight Guy runs a tight schedule as the clock counts down after the mystery baskets appear. But did you know it takes over 100 people to make an episode of Chopped? Read on for more behind-the-scenes delicious fun facts about Chopped.
Little Known Chopped Facts
1. There Are Actually Five Chefs on Each Episode
There's always a standby chef. The show keeps an understudy contestant on speed dial in case one of the four chefs can't do the show. Whether it's an illness or an emotional freakout, the Chopped show will go on. According to Julianne Feder who was on standby twice, "As a standby, I had to show up and be prepared just like the real contestants. The night before I sharpened my knives and laid out my shoes and comfortable clothes. I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m.," Feder wrote in an article for Thrillist.
2. Is the Mystery Basket Really a Mystery?
Contestants can only see the pantry ahead of time. The mystery baskets remain a mystery. They're not just thrown together willy nilly either to torture contestants. They're planned ahead for the whole season. The math is impressive. Three baskets a day x four ingredients x 39 episodes + a riddle inside each basket equals a lot of work!
While the contestants do get a tour of the pantry before the contest begins, they don't get to see the mystery ingredients before the viewers do. Winning chef Michael Vignola was quoted in a Tasting Table interview saying, "As soon as you open the basket, the clock starts. I have no idea how I came up with the dishes I made. I just did it in the moment."
But let's not forget that this is TV and the drama is part of the entertainment. Host Ted Allen has said sometimes they need the chefs to do different reaction shots to the mystery ingredients. There's shock, disgust, glee, confusion, and the whole gamut of human emotion. Former contestant Kathy Fang told Delish that chefs may stand in front of the unopened mystery ingredients basket for 15 minutes while they feign reactions for the camera.
3. Their Own Knives and a Little Help
A chef's knife set is like having a favorite pair of sweatpants or a favorite pen. Chopped chefs get to bring up to seven of their own comfy knives. They're also given a quick tutorial on how to use any of the appliances that may be different from what they're used to in their own kitchens. The famous lone ice cream machine is where the contestants pay the closest attention.
"Chopped" judge Marcus Samuelsson has said that even though it would be easier to have enough ice cream machines for all the contestants to use during the dessert round, the cutthroat competition is what viewers love.
4. The Clock is Really Ticking
The actual cooking rounds are truly only 20 or 30 minutes long. There's no stop or start in the middle of stirring or sauteeing for the sake of a camera shot. It really is a contest. Even though the ticking clock is real, one episode can still take up to 14 hours to film.
5. Show Approved Cheating
When the clock starts, the ovens have already been preheated to 350 degrees F. Pots of water are already at a rolling boil and waiting for the contestants to work their culinary magic. The culinary producer and her team handle all those details in addition to stocking the pantry and creating those mystery basket ingredients. The team actually does have a dish in mind when tossing all those ingredients into the basket but the goal is to make it not obvious to the contestant.
6. The Show Uses Leftovers
Sometimes the mystery baskets contain what looks like leftovers. That's because they are actual leftovers! The culinary producer sometimes grabs leftovers from the local restaurants near the New York City studio where the chopped kitchen is located. One contestant actually took a slice of leftover pizza and put it in a blender as part of a sauce. I really want to try that.
7. A Long Decision Time
It actually takes the judges up to an hour to make a decision on an episode of Chopped. Judge Scott Conant says that even though viewers see what seems like a snap judgement, the judges give a lot of thought to choosing a winner of this cooking competition. The toughest judge is definitely Alex Guarnaschelli.
After each round, the contestants present their dishes to the judges. There's an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. They also make a fourth dish that remains uneaten for a dramatic reveal of who was chopped. On an episode of the show, the whole judging process only lasts a few minutes, but in reality, filming can take up to an hour per round.
8. Don't Let Host Ted Allen Distract You
Since this is a reality show and not just pseudo-reality TV, contestants need to concentrate. Host Ted Allen will do everything he can to throw you off your game. He comes around to each chef and gets in their personal space asking questions. Even though Ted is pretty adorable and seemingly harmless, he can still annoy you. The chefs are told by the producers they can tell Ted they don't want to talk. He'll politely walk away to distract at the next station.
9. Why We Root for the Contestants
A big part of the audition process is learning about the chefs' backstories. The producers aren't just looking for any old Chopped champion. They want to know who the chef is in real life. The producers want viewers to cheer on a real Rocky story of a cook, in addition to a creative meal.
10. Chopped Originally Starred a Chihuahua
There is a pilot of the show that never aired that featured an English butler, a mansion, and a chihuahua. Yes, like the dog. The butler hosted a pretend game show and the "chopped" dish was fed to his pet chihuahua as a solid burn to the quality of the former contestant's dish. Fit for a dog. Food Network got rid of the dog, the butler, and the mansion and gave us the cooking show as we know it now.