Recently, I was able to cross something off of my bucket list that I didn’t think would ever be possible:
I competed in a “Chopped” Challenge!
If you watch The Food Network at all, you have most likely heard about their hit show “Chopped”. But, in case you haven’t, here’s a quick run down.
The show starts with four contestants who are given a basket of mystery ingredients they must use to make an appetizer within a certain amount of time (see: not enough time). They have an unlimited pantry to use to complete the course, and judges to score their meals after time is up. The chef who makes the worst appetizer is “chopped”, and the remaining three repeat the process to create a main dish. One chef gets chopped, and the last two battle to make a dessert with more mystery ingredients.
The items in the basket must appear in the dish they are making, or they are deducted points.
The mystery ingredients are often a combination of things that do not easily go well together, or processed food you wouldn’t normally cook with! And the time constraints are always a little tight, so the chefs are running around trying to get everything done in time! The winner is awarded a cash prize and bragging rights 🙂
I have watched many, MANY episodes, and it always looks like something that would be exciting to try! The show sometimes has amateur chefs as competitors, but that’s no where near what my comfort level is at… But, it didn’t look impossible to try to recreate for your own kitchen! No one has an unlimited pantry, though, or a big enough budget to create one. And kitchen space? That’s just asking for trouble. So, I recruited the help of some brave friends to help me figure out how we could do this ourselves! The following plan is how we were able to finally pull it off!
How to Throw Your Own Chopped Challenge:
Pick the friend with the largest kitchen and most open floor plan. Designate the pantry space and the table for extra supplies (pans, plates, odd utensils, etc.) Divide common utensils, bowls, pans, and cutting boards evenly between two workstations. Set the oven to 350* as a universal baking temperature to prevent wasting time waiting for it to preheat. Also, be sure to have other spare cooking utensils out and open, to prevent digging through cabinets and wasting time (baking pans, cookie sheets, blenders/food processors). You will want to make sure there are enough dishes to present with. Various sizes of plates and bowls would be helpful. I ended up bringing about half of my kitchen supplies, to ensure we had enough of the basics. Since you are doing ALL of the cooking before you sit down to eat, be sure to plan ahead for timing. We arrived at their house around 4:30, so that we could begin cooking by 5:00pm.
Next, draw names to determine who will be competing! You will choose two people who will each complete two courses, and appetizer and main dish. If you have extra people, you can designate one person per competitor to be a sous chef to help with chopping and stirring. As a group, discuss who has various cooking tools and staple ingredients, so you can all pitch in for that. Our pantry area was quite full, and included lots of duplicates! But, it made cooking SO much easier.
Each person/couple should bring one protein (meat, beans, yogurt, etc.) and three carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, starches, etc.)
Those not competing will gather together the proteins and carbohydrates each person/couple brought for basket ingredients. They will select two proteins and two carbohydrates for the appetizer course, and two proteins and four carbohydrates for the main course. Divide the amount of each ingredient evenly between each competitor and keep it a secret for them to unveil right before they start cooking.
Competitors will open up their first basket (or reusable grocery bag, like we used…). We took five minutes to plan out how we were going to use our ingredients. Then, they will have 45 minutes to complete their dish. They must have it on the plate before the 45 minutes are up, or they will be docked points.
Here’s what happened in our appetizer course: Our basket ingredients were vanilla greek yogurt (which was supposed to be plain greek yogurt, but I don’t believe that… ;), pork chops, corn tortillas, and gummy worms. Seriously.
I ended up with a taco with seasoned pork, cilantro lime rice, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and topped with a yogurt sauce with melted gummy worms in it.
Our friend Jack made a taco with spicy pork and onions, and on the side he had a gummy worm and yogurt salad. It was a close call on time, but it made it more exciting!
Those who aren’t cooking will become judges. Each contestant will present their dish to the judges, everyone can eat and enjoy while the judges ask questions about the dish. Then, every one pitches in to do some dishes to get ready for the next round.
Competitors are given their basket of secret ingredients. For this round, they will have 60 minutes to complete a main course. Since there was so much time, we decided against the planning period.
Here’s how our main dish round went: Our baskets included spinach, kiwi, green pepper, shredded cheese (one basket had cheddar, one had mozzarella. We were told to share if needed), zucchini, and kielbasa sausage.
I made stuffed peppers with the sausage, cheese, zucchini, and I added some potatoes and spices. The spinach and kiwi went into a blender to make a sauce to dip the stuffing into.
Jack made rings out of the peppers and filled them with the zucchini and sausage combined with honey and mozzarella. Then, he mixed the spinach with the kiwi, an orange, and a fruit cup to go on the side.
The main dishes get presented to the judges. Then, the judges can go deliberate and decide on a winner!
ABOVE ALL, have fun with it!! Don’t stress about if your cooking is awful or not. You’re all trying something new together, and your friends or family will have agreed to participate, so they should know what they are getting into 😉
What do you think? Would you try this? What changes would you make?