Serious Eats: Talk

The Problem With "Chopped"

I trust that most of my SE companions have watched at least one episode of this well-produced, but problematic, show on Food Network.

I say problematic because of this: in some way that i don't feel applies to any other "reality" show, the challenge is impossible and unfair. They give you a basket of ingredients that cannot possibly be harmonized in the time allotted.

I grant that the show is titillating. I grant that the show is hard to turn off. but imagine a show with a maze that the producers put the contestants into, and the producers don't know how to get out of. That's Chopped. do the producers have a recipe that would satisfy the judges if executed perfectly? have they tested these ingredients? I've never seen the judges say about a dish "this is above reproach". Is there even a dish that could reach that standard?

If not, this show is bunk. Even carnival games can be beaten, but not Chopped. Yes, it's still good TV, but it's a bogus competition, and both the game and the TV could be made better by offering, at least to the audience, something honest: a suggestion for a dish that would satisfy the judges completely, given the ridiculous ingredients on offer.

So, the question: Does anybody know if the FN chefs develop a "winning" recipe or at least an "acceptable" recipe for the ingredients they offer to Chopped contestants? Or do they just give them a basket of huitlacoche, pork rinds, jellyfish, and romanesco and say "make dinner!!" ?

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