Interview with Ted AllenWhat makes Chopped stand out from the other cooking competition shows?
TED: There's a realness to Chopped that I think is really cool. The chefs coming in to the show are mostly young chefs or mid-career sous chefs behind the stoves in New York City restaurants or nearby states. The Food Network wanted this to be a very straight forward cooking competition. There are so many cooking contest shows out there. Everything out there from Iron Chef to Next Food Network Star to Top Chef to Hell's Kitchen. All those shows have their own distinct angle. What I think is special about this one is that 'real' feeling. Whatever panic or bloodshed or tears or whatever happens on Chopped is entirely about can you make a good dish with these ingredients or not. And we've had a lot of drama. In the first episode, there are buckets of tears.
What do you look for in these chefs when they are working with ordinary everyday ingredients?
TED: I think there has been too much emphasis put on the 'ordinariness' of the ingredients. If you look at the first appetizer battle, the mystery basket has baby octopus. You know, some people come to Food Network because they want to learn how to cook some really complicated, high-end haute cuisine. Other people are regular folks that want simple solutions, 30-minute meals and then there are people that want something else: they want to be entertained. Or they may want all of that. I think that was put out there not to say we are going to be using white bread and fruit loops but I do think the ingredients are important. That's another thing that makes this show so hard. For example, on Iron Chef America (and you're talking about chefs at the top of their game) they are required to cook with one secret ingredient. The ingredient sets a theme for their meal. On our show, you get a basket with 3 to 5 ingredients per course and all those ingredients have to go into your dish. So if I give you baby octopus, bok choy, Dijon mustard and gummi bears that's tough.