Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Move over Top Chef

Because you're about to be Chopped!

Well, not really. Sunday night, instead of getting 7 hours of sleep, I stayed up to watch a rerun of Ted Allen's new show on the Food Network. I'll be reviewing it so that you can save the time of watching it yourself.

The premise has potential. They start with 4 chefs. Each chef has to prepare a 3 course dinner; appetizer, entree, dessert. May the best chef win.

But here's the twist. Each chef has only 30 minutes to prepare each course and they are given a basket with mystery ingredients that they must use in their dish. And after each course is prepared and presented to the judges, one of the chefs is -- CHOPPED!

Kind of hard to explain, but here's how the episode I watched went. The four chefs were given their basket of ingredients. All I remember is that it had bran flakes in there with a few other things. So they have 30 minutes and cook like crazy. They serve the dishes to the judges. The judges eat, talk to the chefs and make a decision. They call the chefs out and the losing dish is in front of them, but with a cover on. Ted Allen reveals the losing dish and that chef is out of the competition. It's like the quick fire challenge on steroids.

Then it's on to round 2. The chefs get new baskets with new ingredients and get another 30 minutes to cook. Dishes are eaten judged and another chef is chopped. So they finally get to dessert and it's the last 2 chefs and the winner gets $10,000.

Conceptually, I think the show works. Where it fell short was in execution. (Do I sound like a Top Chef judge or what?)

First off, Ted Allen is too nice. He tries to be so serious and dramatic, which doesn't seem to me to fit his personality. They of course take a commercial break before they announce the losing chef from each round and Ted says "who will go on and who will be --CHOPPED?" It just doesn't work coming from him. I've seen him as a judge on Top Chef and he just doesn't have that Anthony Bourdain persona that the show needs. It's like he's trying to be the chairman from Iron Chef, but I'm not buying it.

Second, Chopped has a lousy soundtrack. Top Chef has a great soundtrack! Actually, I can barely remember the music from Chopped. Don't underestimate the power of a good soundtrack.

Next, I have a problem with the way they reveal the loser from each round. They have the losing dish on a plate covered with a metal dish. To reveal the loser, they remove the cover. Why draw attention to the losing dish? Wouldn't you rather see the winning dish? I guess that's just me.

Last, and this probably why the show won't have the popularity of other cooking reality shows, each episode starts with four chefs and is down to one at the end. It's not enough time to care about the competitors. Why should I care who gets chopped? I've only known that person for a few minutes.

At least on the Food Network Challenge the competitors are all on for the entire show, allowing you to get to know them better -- and there's only one challenge, not 3, and they usually know what the challenge is, so they are prepared to excel.

With the limited cooking time and the mystery ingredients, the competitors don't have much flexibility in what they cook.

For all these reasons, this program will not go into my regular TV watching lineup. It will be -- CHOPPED.

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