This is the first in what will be a very valuable series to KU Says readers with tips for succeeding on various reality television programs. With “Chopped All Stars” premiering on Sunday, it seemed appropriate to kick this off with with “Chopped,” a.k.a. the greatest food competition program involving multiple surprise ingredients since “Ready, Set, Cook” with Sissy Biggers.
Since J and I are devoted “Chopped” viewers, here are some tips we prepared if you don’t want Ted giving you the knife.
You’re supposedly a professional (except for that lobster roll delivery dude). Get the basics right.
- Cook your protein correctly, above all else. Here’s the thing: if three people screw up, the guy who got a nice sear with a medium rare temperature is definitely making it through.
- Don’t leave in bones, strings, cartilage, or anything else inedible. That’s just amateur hour and this is usually where the home cooks/caterers/private chefs who specialize in “kosher locavore dining” fail.
- Don’t forget your sauce. It cures dryness, pulls multiple components together, shows your personal style, and allows you to mask an ingredient you didn’t understand how to use properly.
- You should know how to budget time for: starches (rice, pasta, risotto, potatoes), protein (see #1), and baked goods. Poorly cooked rice is a common competitive food show enemy; unless it’s in the basket, we recommend staying away.
Embrace what Chopped stands for: creativity and resourcefulness.
- If it’s in the basket; it must be transformed. We know you didn’t know what to do with those corn chips, but crumbling them and sprinkling on the side isn’t incorporating them into the dish. If you didn’t fool us, you’re not fooling Zakarian. I mean, the man’s basically one step away from God (did you see him get a perfect score on “Iron Chef America?” Does that even happen?)
- No clue what an ingredient is? Regardless of round, you can probably put it in a blender.Other tips:
- Appetizer round: use for vinaigrette or chop into salad
- Entree round: gastrique that bitch*
- Dessert round: blend with Marscarpone
We know you’re not a pastry chef, but go out with a bang.
- Your dessert needs to be a dessert (not breakfast, all ye French toast offenders), but it can’t be too sweet. None of the judges like that (except sometimes Aaron Sanchez).
- If you think you can make an ice cream, do it. A good ice cream pretty much always wins this round. That said, if you think you’re going to make an ice cream, get to the machine first. I shouldn’t have to tell you that if you lose that machine, you’ll be stuck trying to make a last minute parfait and hoping the deep freezer works faster (spoiler: it never does).
- Don’t bake anything, it will not be done in time (unless you’re a baker and they’re looking for that from you). If you are able to bake successfully, by all means do, and feel free to offer a touching story about how the recipe for that crisp came from your blind grandmother who you’d like to use the proceeds from winning to visit.
Seriously, this is television, be presentable.
- Plate before the 1 minute mark and don’t use a ring mold if what you have won’t set, it will ultimately look like dog food. There’s very little you can cook in under 60 sec and the judges reward strong presentation.
- Don’t contaminate your food by double dipping/tasting. The judges who need to eat that food are maybe 12 feet away… what’s wrong with you???
Additional personal pet peeves:
- J doesn’t like people who cut themselves and bleed nor does he like people who are a**holes.
- K doesn’t like people who tell long stories about how they want to win for their [insert sob story]-afflicted family. It’s called Chopped not Make A Wish.
*K believes that gastrique is to Chopped as sous-vide is to Top Chef. Discuss.