Monday, April 20, 2020

7 Things: Chopped

I've been watching a lot of "Chopped" lately.  "Chopped" differs slightly from other cooking competitions in that the format is very unchangeable.  They have certainly done special episodes, but one of the challenges you find in some other cooking competitions is that a chef who watched 2-3 episodes to figure out what they were signing on for might see three challenges that end up being not applicable to their own experience.  Of course, it does mean that when "Chopped" does break format - like everything is breakfast, use chocolate in every dish, I have even less sympathy with the contestants. 

But I have - in addition to be a dude, which helps tremendously - - I have come up with seven tips for contestants that my non-chef, just watching at home self has determined.  

1. If you nicked yourself get it taken care of. The chef who gets blood on the plate goes home. Seriously, they will have more sympathy for your dish being unfinished and not bloody, than they will for bloody.  There is more than one instance of a chef who did not think they were bleeding who got blood on the plate.  The clock is your enemy but inedible is inedible. 

2. Any meat you have or anything else you have that has a long cooking time, you will do better using small amounts and getting it fully cooked. Sure they might ding you for portions, but cooked correctly is going to work out better for you. The number of chefs who thing they can cook steak in thirty minutes and then forget that you have to factor in prep, in some cases butchering, marinating, and resting.  If you can't cook it in ten minutes, make a new plan.  

3. Taste it. In fairness, a lot of these boil down (lol) to time.  But if you haven't tasted all the things, then little things like two little or too much salt that you could have fixed will escape you.  And if they asked you if you tasted it and you have to say no, it's bad.  Not as bad as trying to pretend you meant to serve a salt lick. 

4. Count. You have four ingredients.  But limited time.  So, as you race to get the things you need for ingredients A and B and your station gets cluttered, it's so easy to misplace that little tiny bottle or just not see that bag of greens or whatever.  Count.  Make it part of your process so that you don't have that realization a minute after they called time.  

5. Don't be a dick. I know the chef world prizes arrogance and boldness.  I know the show is designed to constantly ask you why you think you're better than your competitors.  I know my personal wishes and desires as a person who does not hire and fire chefs, probably matters little.  But here's why I think you should avoid being a dick about it.  Because the editors at "Chopped" get to pick and choose clips after the show has been decided.  And sure, if you say things like, well, I was really proud of what I served but I'm up against some great competitors, you're right that they may never use that even if you end up the winner.  (Although the winner always gets to say the last few words.  Plus the winner gets money.)  But if you say, at least my dish didn't look like trash the way Susie's did, and you get cut that round, they are definitely using you saying that.  And you go out looking like a dick. 

6. If you make it to the dessert round, only one of you is going to have time to use the ice cream maker. Also, this isn't a real kitchen.  Even if your competitor makes it in and out in time, they aren't going to clean the ice cream maker.  You shouldn't ask.  And if you try to use it without cleaning, your results might end up gross.  Basically, I'm saying have a plan B that isn't ice cream.  

7. Putting a cold thing on a hot thing melts the cold thing. I know this seems self explanatory, but I have seen this come up multiple times. It's often a result of thinking of ingredients and not the whole plate. So if you baked something that you then want to put something cold on, you need to allow time for that baked thing to cool.