"Chopped" is one of the most popular shows on Food Network, with more than 320 episodes aired since it first premiered in 2009. Hosted by Ted Allen, the premise is simple and brilliant: four chefs are each given a small amount of time to create a dish that utilizes four surprise basket ingredients, and at the end of each round a panel of judges sends home the chef whose dish fares the worst.
But even if you’re a loyal viewer, we bet that there are some things you don’t know about this hit show.
1. The Original Concept Was Insanely Elaborate and Really Weird
According to "From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network," the original concept revolved around a mysterious “tycoon” planning to throw a dinner party at his castle. His butler’s role was to find four chefs who would compete for the right to cook the dinner. After each round, the losing dish would be scraped into a dog bowl by host Rocco DiSpirito and eaten by a Chihuahua named Pico, on camera. After the pilot was filmed the “tycoon” idea was scrapped so that the show could focus instead on the chefs.
2. The Judges Take a Long Time to Deliberate
While only a minute or so of deliberations between the judges per round makes it to air, judges have been known to take over an hour to decide which contestant is going home. They spend up to 15 minutes talking to the contestants about each of their dishes and inspecting each work station.
3. Aarón Sánchez Has an Unpleasant On-Set ‘Joke’
We’ll present this quote directly from From Scratch: “During the long taping days, a comradeship developed between [the judges]. Aarón’s flatulence, sometimes aimed directly at the stern Alex [Guarnaschelli], became a running joke on the set.” Sorry, what?
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4. Each Contestant Needs a Story
According to a former contestant who spoke with A.V. Club, each contestant needs to have a story that emerges during the interview process, so they can have a “narrative” the producers play up. Whether it’s overcoming anxiety, winning the approval of parents, or needing the money to get out of debt, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the show really plays up each competitor’s narrative in order to get you emotionally invested in him or her.
5. Contestants Aren’t Allowed to Make Bread Pudding
The judges have been served so much bread pudding in the dessert round that contestants are essentially banned from making it.
6. Filming an Episode Takes More Than 14 Hours
Contestants arrive at the studio at 6 a.m. and are usually there until after 8 at night. There’s a lot of set-up time in between rounds, and the contestants spend a lot of time hanging out in the “stew room” where they’re seen chatting on the show (incidentally, none of the equipment in that room is plugged in; it’s just a set piece).