Chopped – Family Watching and Cooking Fun


My kids don’t watch much TV.  However they heard about the show “Chopped” and they are obsessed!  My husband and I had watched a few times and found it interesting but a spin on Top Chef, which we’d been watching for years.  Thanks goodness for DVR’s -so we can tape have a variety of episodes and skip thru commercials (no crazy wants and saves time).  So not does my family like to watch but they decided they wanted to have their own “Chopped” competition.  OK…why not?!


In case you haven’t seen it the premise of the show is to give chef contestants a mystery basket of ingredients which they have to make an appetizer, main dish and dessert in 20 minutes per round.  Each round/course someone doesn’t make the cut and is eliminated or “chopped” from participating in the next round by a panel of judges (restauranteurs, chefs, cookbook authors).  They are judged on taste, creativity and presentation.  My 6 year old always says “What’s presentation again?”  The mystery ingredients are sometimes quite tough as they can be very unrelated or even unknown to the contestants.  Would you know what to do with pig’s snout?   How do you incorporate yummy tarantulas into a main dish?   Or how would you use a jalapeno pepper in a dessert?    I think what’s appealing to the show is watching the creativity but also having a winner at the end of the episode.  There’s no waiting to watch the next week (as Top Chef) to see who’s eliminated next.


So back to our own competition.  The first time my husband and I chose the ingredients hard boiled eggs, gel cups (vegan “jello”), lettuce and fruit.  We kind of acted as producers, host (Ted Allen in the show) and judges.  We weren’t really anticipating what the kids would make and that we would have to eat it.  Both kids made sandwiches.  However my son put the gel cups in with eggs, while my daughter mixed the gel cup with the fruit.  They both got fancy with presentation as my son swirled salsa on the plate and my daughter sprinkled fresh herbs on her sandwich.  They were both creative and worked hard on presentation, but my daughter was victorious.  We did our judges table and told them what we liked and didn’t like about their dishes and then sent them out of the room (like a commercial break) to reveal who would be chopped.  We used a wok lid to hide the dish and do the pomp and circumstance of the show.  It was fine until my son started to cry.

my daughter’s dish
my son’s dish
(points taken away for dish on single plate)
Waiting for the verdict
Waiting for the verdict


Now unlike the show there is no staff to clean up the kitchen and prepare for the next round.  That was where my husband and I did most of the behind the scenes  work.  So we did another course another day.  This was the dessert round.  The ingredients were vanilla ice cream, strawberries and wasabi.  Both kids went to the kitchen machinery.  Unfortunately the blender was on the blink, so my son go to the food processor.  They both made kind of a shake, but my son got more creative with adding other pantry ingredients and a variety of berries.  Plus his was smoother given the use of the processor while my daughter’s was of course more lumpy.  My husband and I were glad my son out performed this time as we had a whole discussion about not caring who won and that they were both working hard. (and we wouldn’t be able to continue to play if people took it too seriously and personally).  This time my son won, but all were happy to finish eating and sharing the dishes (eating not the washing).


chocolate, strawberries, ice cream, wasabi

my daughter’s chunky dessert
my son’s dessert


Funny thing is we’ve talked about “chopped” with other families and friends and seems we were late to the party.  Some other families had been doing this since last summer.  If we’d only known.  We’ll have to see what’s in store for the next episode of our home based “chopped”.





I Met a Master

There are only a handful of television shows I watch each week.  Once of them is Top Chef.  I’ve blogged about my love of the show before.  But what trumps Top Chef?  Top Chef Masters!  I was so excited to watch each week and especially root for the home team chef (Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys in SF).  No I had never been to Fleur de Lys (hopefully some day soon), but this chef was so nice and down to earth and french.  How could I not like him?  He didn’t win.  But I liked Rick Bayless (Frontera, Topolobampo, Chicago)  too.  Another seemingly nice person with a genuine passion for food.

When I heard Hubert Keller would be at the Tyler Florence Shop in Mill Valley, I responded immediately.  We in the Bay Area are so fortunate to have the Florence family here as a family,  business, and generous community supporter.  Hubert was promoting his new cookbook Burger Bar Build Your Own Ultimate Burgers, along with his new restaurants (opening in Macy’s in Union Square SF on Oct 16th).  I was so pleased to see this friendly and talkative “master” in person.  It was also very moving to hear a man thank him for Fleur de Lys and the experience he had dining there when he proposed to his wife.  It was also wonderful to hear that he has raised so much money for Make-A-Wish foundation because of his Top Chef Masters appearance.

Hubert and I
Hubert and I


The cookbook looks wonderful – everything from burgers (beef, fish, veggie, ostrich) and veggie sides (fries, pickled veggies) and shakes/floats (spiked and non).  I’ll report back with a recipe once I’ve tried something.