You Have Been Chopped: Cooking Tips From My Favorite Show

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Although I have well documented the fact that I do not cook, I am a big fan of the Food Network, which is basically the same thing. Shut up, that's my story and I'm sticking with it. I watch the Food Network on the regular, and I have learned so much (no raw red onions!) that I cannot for the life of me figure out why I am not a gourmet chef yet. Isn't that like, osmosis or something? Shouldn't I pretty much BE Ina Garten by now? Anyway, I will still be known as The Woman Who Microwaved Soup And Ended Up In The Burn Unit, but there are a few things I do know about cooking as per my obsessive FN watching, and because I am a giver, I am going to share them with you. You're welcome.

Chopped. Probably the most popular show on FN, certainly the most viewed, Chopped is a simple concept. Four chefs enter, are given a basket of mystery ingredients, and have to cobble together a gourmet dish. I would kick butt at this show, because "cobbling together random kitchen products and with a grand flourish, declaring them food" is my jam, but some of the things these chefs have to use would befuddle the most seasoned chef. Durian, a fruit that apparently smells like a skunk's gym socks, is a favorite, as are ingredients like bugs, or Dippin' Dots, or Circus Peanuts. Just think of the most random crap you could find in a kitchen and these wizards can make a meal out of them.

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But it's not the meals themselves that are impressive. It's the amazingly tragic backstories of the contestants. You will always have The Addict In Recovery, The One Wanting To Win For A Sick Relative, The One Whose Family Doesn't Believe In Their Talent, and The Other One. The Other One probably is obsessive about being vegan, or is from another country and brings it up every five seconds, or has hundreds of tattoos and piercings. This is a vital part of Chopped, and it happens on every episode. If you ever hope to make it onto this show, you better have fallen down a well as a child or something.

What also happens on every episode is the always ill advised dish. I know very little about life, but I do know that you never make risotto on Chopped. It will always end up being crunchy, and risotto is not supposed to be crunchy. Also, I know that the ice cream machine is less reliable than the one at McDonalds, and we all know that's always broken. Don't make ice cream on Chopped. Ever. Even if the machine doesn't break, it will melt before the judges ever get hold of it. No ice cream!

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Speaking of the judges, you better PRAY that you get the yummy Marcus Samuelsson, because he's so nice and sweet and wants you to do well. Ditto Alex Guarnaschelli. Ditto Amanda Freitag. Ditto Maneet Chauhan. They seem like extremely decent people who do not delight in watching chefs crash and burn. They are the ones who are out of their seats and cheering you on as you do a last minute plating, and are genuine about loving your meal, and sad when your crunchy risotto durian ice cream is terrible. Scott Conant is another story. Scott hates you. He hates you, he hates your face, and he really hates your food. Why is Scott Conant even on this show? He is full of hate and angry bees. Ditto Marc Murphy. Ditto Chris Santos. Jeez, for a show about food, a lot of the judges hate almost everything that is made.

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And then there is everyone's favorite host, the always dapper and delightful Ted Allen. Who doesn't love Ted Allen? He's so encouraging! So nice! So...not obnoxious (I'm looking at you, Guy Fieri) as a host! I would like to petition for Ted Allen to get a plate at judging. He's the host of the dang show and he must be so hungry watching all this food get passed around without a thought about poor Ted's grumbly tummy. Feed Ted Allen!!!

So that's what I know about cooking from Chopped. Don't use raw red onion, ever. Don't make risotto in half an hour. Never approach the ice cream machine. Durian smells like a wet weasel. And anyone can make anything food if they try hard enough. Except me. I will remain helpless and hopeless in the kitchen, but when I'm watching Chopped, I am a dang gourmet chef.