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October 31, 2014

Ted Allen Talks 'Chopped Champions,' Celebrity Chefs & More

by Maggie Furlong, posted Sep 28th 2010 5:15PM
In case you've missed it, Food Network's fact-paced cooking competition series 'Chopped' has been having the competition to end all competitions this month -- a battle of 16 previous winners.

In tonight's grand finale (Tues., Sept. 28, 10PM ET), we'll finally learn who's the winner of 'Chopped Champions' and the big $50,000 prize. And before you say anything about $50,000 not being that great of a prize, just think about it -- it's $50,000! Recession or not, that's a pretty paycheck for a few days of work.

I caught up with host Ted Allen to hear all about why he thinks the 'Champions' series has been so fun and to find out what other fun twists are coming next. 'Chopped: Celebrity Chef Edition' anyone? It may not be that far off ...

'Chopped Champions' has been so fun to watch -- is it as exciting to film this mini series as it is to watch?
This is our favorite series of shows that we ever do. One of the things that's so incredibly difficult about this contest it you're in a strange kitchen, you've never been in front of a TV camera, it's hot ... and even if you tell someone they have 30 minutes to do something, it doesn't really register until you've had to do it. So to bring back 16 people who -- not only have they already competed, but they've already won -- is really fun. They're a little bit ... I don't want to say relaxed, but they at least have their wits about them. They've done this already.

It's crazy how competitive things get!
Chefs are such competitive people anyway, and these guys have already been through this once. It's an extended series of five episodes, but nobody wins any money for the first four -- the fifth one gets a really nice purse of $50,000 -- also seems to be a good motivator.

I mean, $50,000 is a great prize ...
$50,000 is a nice chunk of change for anybody, but most of our chefs are either executive chefs at small restaurants or sous chefs, many of them are younger, so a lot of these people probably don't even make $50,000 in a year. It works out to five days work -- that's pretty good.

That's funny because people just assume chefs make a lot, I think, because of all the chefs on TV, don't you agree?
I do, and there's a little danger in there that culinary students need to be reminded of -- and I doubt seriously that culinary schools are doing the reminding -- which is that, when you get into this line of work, you're gonna be peeling potatoes for 10 bucks an hour for a while. Sure, everybody wants a Food Network show. In fact, a lot of people who aren't even chefs want a Food Network show. [Laughs]

Do you have any advice for wannabe TV chefs?
Good advice for chefs who are thinking about doing something in television is: you gotta remember why you became a chef in the first place, and hang onto that passion and love of food and respect of ingredients. Not everybody's cut out for this stuff, especially when you talk about a competition like 'Chopped.' There are lots of great chefs in this world who would crumble under these circumstances.

What do you think it is about the show that just makes people crumble?
Every professional chef has to cook quickly, but you also have weeks -- months -- that you can spend developing a recipe and perfecting it. Here, we expect you to develop it in your brain in about 30 seconds and execute it in half an hour with ingredients that you may have never even seen before.

Is there anyone that you'd love to see in the 'Chopped' kitchen?
So far we haven't brought anyone on who is well known, and that's been by design. We intended for the contestants on 'Chopped' to be the people who are really at the stoves. But it's possible that you might see something along those lines coming up because, without changing things to much, we want to have some special episodes. We're kicking around ideas for ways to mix up the format now and then.

So like 'Chopped: Celebrity Chef Edition'?
Certainly! But the number one thing fans have asked is to see the judges go against each other. It'd be a blast to see Chris Santos taking on Aaron Sanchez, Amanda [Freitag] taking on Alex [Guarnacshelli]. I don't know if something like that could ever happen, and I'm not sure we could ever convince them to do it, but who knows -- the sky's the limit.

I love it -- and maybe we could get you cooking, too?
Oh god. You know, I'm a good home cook, but I'm not a professional chef and have never claimed to be fast. Actually, my partner and I joke around that my next cookbook should be called 'Dinner by 10?' [Laughs] But I have a pretty iron-clad escape for this challenge you're laying forth on me: who's gonna host the show? I'm not letting some other shmuck do my job better than I do! [Laughs]

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