'Chopped' Season Premiere Rechat

"I want to care more about these people, can't someone say something funny or bitchy or edgy?" —Ed Levine



"Animal Crackers in My Soup." Trust me, all will become clear if you keep reading.

Three of the Serious Eats gang sat down to watch the premiere of the new chef competition show Chopped. We chatted via IM about it as the episode unfolded.

Adam: So from what I understand, it's four competitors each show, three courses, one chef eliminated with each course? So no recurring stable of contestants to whittle down over the season
Ed: Yes, it's all about cooking, but I miss the artificially induced drama. Ted Allen is rather bland. It has some elements of Iron Chef and some of Top Chef, but it's not as distinctive as either of those shows
Adam: So I take it that judges change with each episode, too? Or maybe it'll be like Iron Chef—a rotation of regulars? Without recurring judges, though, I wonder if any single judge will become the "mean, credible judge"
Adam: With Iron Chef, Steingarten as a recurring regular seems to fill the mean judge role who lends the show credibility
Ed: Colicchio does it on Top Chef
Ed: Ted Allen is a host—not enough of an expert; the chefs are just cooks, you never get to know them as people, so it's hard to care and root for them
Adam: Also, the judges are chefs, and not super well-known ones—at least not to mainstream, non-food-world-obsessed Americans, so I wonder if they'll be more reluctant to get mean. It's easier to be an asshole if you've already got five restaurants nationwide
Ed: Good point, Adam, I felt they aren't very discerning—not because they didn't know better (because in fact they know a lot), but because they want to be nice

[Warning: Spoilers follow!]

Ed: So long, Summer; how could she concentrate on the flavor? None of them had ever worked with baby octopus before
Adam: I know, especially "I'm a vegan vegetarian chef." Uh oh. Vegetarians/vegans, I have nothing against you, but you can't bring that to a competition that throws unknown ingredients at you
Adam: Good one, Sandy: "There's nuthin' better than a potato fried in duck fat. Nuthin' better."
Ed: Sandy is right about potatoes fried in duck fat, there is nothing better
Ed: Where's Alton Brown when you need him?
Adam: They also put a blur over the mouth when they cuss. I guess that's for lip-readers
Ed: I want to care more about these people, can't someone say something funny or bitchy or edgy? Everyone is so nice on the show—maybe too nice
Alaina: I can't tell if it's the editing or the production, but the show seems to be missing a little pizzaz
Alaina: It's a weird top Chef/Iron Chef hybrid
Ed: I long for some drama, some tension, something to keep me awake
Alaina: So I'm not clear on how this plays out over the season. You don't get to know a contestant in this format. So you aren't emotionally invested
Ed:I need to care about these folks and the judges, and I don't as of yet. I also want someone to say something funny
Ed: I am starting to root for Sandy, I need to root when I watch these shows. It's like when you're watching a game, it's a lot more fun when you have a strong rooting interest
Adam: He has a charming accent. And he said the thing about duck fat
Adam: And for the dessert dish ... Adam: Animal crackers and prunes?!?
Adam: A dessert for young and old alike
Alaina: Or a dessert that appeals to no one!
Alaina: Ed, please explain the Shirley Temple and elephants reference
Alaina: Oh, Anil says "Animal Crackers in My Soup" is the name of a song she sang
Ed: Yes, Sandy sang the song in the beginning of the dessert-making
Alaina: In the 1935 film Curly Top, Wikipedia says
Adam: So this kind of elimination may end up favoring the weaker cook—because if the stronger one bombs (or even is just barely edged out) in the dessert
Adam: Ah, wait, they're doing final judging ... so they *do* take some of the overall into account
Ed: This is too much of a lovefest. We need a nasty judge
Alaina: Where's Toby Young when you need him?

Bonus Video: Shirley Temple Sings 'Animal Crackers in My Soup'