A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that unlike other competitive cooking shows that seem to value rivalries and behind-the-scenes drama, Chopped sticks to what's on the plate. Both contenders and judges treat each other with respect and the focus is firmly on food, flavors, and cooking techniques, making this show a natural for young culinary enthusiasts. On rare occasions, chefs exhibit brief poor sportsmanship, but that is definitely the exception.
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What's the story?
On CHOPPED, four chefs are invited to a one-day competition to cook for a panel of three rotating culinary celebrity judges (Aaron Sanchez, Alex Guarnaschelli, for example) and one host (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Ted Allen). The chefs are asked to produce dishes using surprise ingredients, usually jarring ones: quail, escarole, and chocolate-covered raisins, for example. Dishes must be completed within a short length of time, and are then presented to the judges. The judges eat, critique, and eliminate, or chop (get it?) the chef with the worst dish after each set of courses. The last chef standing wins $10,000.
Is it any good?
This show is ideal for kids who like to cook. Competing chefs take you through their pre-cooking thought process ("the white chocolate could be mixed with cornmeal and made into a kind of corn pudding to put on top of the fish") in a way that's both absorbing and educational. Commentary from the judges is blunt, but not nasty and personal; and though the chefs generally come on with some kind of "I'm the winner!" bravado, all the tension on Chopped comes from the chefs battling the ticking time clock and the oddball ingredients, not each other.
Speaking of those ingredients, that's probably the most entertaining element of the show. Watching professional chefs squirm as they try to marry ground beef, wonton wrappers and bananas is mighty entertaining. Don't be surprised if the kids start rooting around in your cabinets for odds and ends to turn into dinner, or "How could we cook this?" becomes a favored driving game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about competition. If someone enters a competition and loses, does that mean the winner is better? Or does it only reflect the opinion of those who are judging? What makes someone qualified to judge, anyway? How is Chopped different from other competition shows you've seen?
Did you notice the lack of product placement in this show? Why do many competition shows feature prominent name-brand products?
How much of this show is staged and how much is real? What techniques do the show's producers use to amp up tension or make viewers feel an emotion? Can you pick out camera angles, lighting, music cues or other ways in which the show makes a point without speaking?
Are the chefs on Chopped good sports? Why or why not? Can you think of an example where a chef showed sportsmanship? Are there any role models on the show?
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