While I can’t watch endless hours of Paula Dean making the newest buttery casserole, there is one food network show I absolutely cannot get enough of: Chopped. If you haven’t heard of Chopped or seen it, it is a cooking competition show hosted by Ted Allen. Four chefs from all over the U.S. meet at the Chopped kitchen planning to cook their way to $10,000. The chefs range in age, skill, style and field of occupation (food truck owners, restaurant chefs, private chefs etc.). There are three timed rounds: appetizer with 20 min, entree with 30 min, and dessert with 30 min. In each round the chefs are given four ingredients that normally don’t go together. For example an entree basket might include, peanut butter, canned shrimp, savoy cabbage, and black chicken. With the use of any other ingredients they want, the chefs must complete a well composed dish within the time limit and are also judged on the presentation, taste, and creativity of their dishes by famous chefs like Marcus Samuelson, Marc Murphy, Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron Sanchez, Scott Conant, and others. In each round the chef with the worst dish is “chopped” off the show, until in the end there is one victor who goes home with the satisfaction of $10,000. For foodies alike the show is loads of fun to watch, but I soon discovered that it is even more fun to recreate.
I was hanging out with four other friends and we were deciding what to make for lunch (we all love to cook). But in that moment we felt hungry, lazy, and lacked any motivation to cook. That’s when we decided to bring the Chopped game to us. Three of us were contestants and the other two people were judges. The judges chose for ingredients for the contestants to work with: maple syrup, Tostitos Scoops, cucumbers, and cherries. Each of the three contestants attempted to make their best lunch in 30 minutes and we all ate the dishes made. At the end the judges chose one winner. (Instead of $10,000 they won bragging rights). The game was so much fun and now we play Chopped whenever we cook together.
While it can be a fun game to play with others, Chopped doesn’t have to be. If I have to cook dinner for myself, I like to make things more interesting instead of following any old recipe. I choose four ingredients in my kitchen that don’t seem like they would go well together and create a meal under a time limit. The best thing about Chopped is that you can make it as easy or as hard as you want. Choose simple, easy ingredients, or throw a wildcard ingredient in. If you’re in a more relaxed mood, forget the timer entirely. Chopped in a home kitchen can go from a fast paced game with others, to a way of inventing new dinners for the family. And parents or adults alike, never feel immature or childish when doing Chopped. Cooking is about challenging yourself and bring new flavors to a boring routine. Bottom line, Chopped gives cooking a new level of fun and meaning, and can get you to face the stove and push aside those takeout bills.