Re­turn­ing champs: ‘Chopped’ $50,000 tour­na­ment gets un­der­way

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - A+E - By Michelle Rose TV Me­dia

They’re al­ready win­ners, but 16 past cham­pi­ons are step­ping back into the “Chopped” kitchen and our TV-lov­ing lives this week, as Food Net­work rolls out its new­est in­stall­ment of the “$50,000 Champs Chal­lenge” tour­na­ment.

The five-part “Chopped” tour­na­ment-within-a-sea­son kicks off on Tues­day, Jan. 21. The event is an au­di­ence fa­vorite and has be­come some­what of an an­nual tra­di­tion since the first $50,000 chal­lenge ran in 2010. (The very first “Chopped Cham­pi­ons” was in 2009, but the cur­rent for­mat was in­tro­duced a year later.)

There’s noth­ing new in terms of how the elim­i­na­tion-style con­test works: four com­peti­tors (in this case, all past “Chopped” cham­pi­ons) must out­cook their op­po­nents in two elim­i­na­tion rounds (the 20-minute Ap­pe­tizer round and the 30-minute En­trée round) be­fore the fi­nal two face off in the 30-minute Dessert round that de­ter­mines the win­ner.

These “Chopped” pros will have a slight ad­van­tage, at least over their past selves, be­cause they know ex­actly what it’s like to race against the clock in a kitchen that isn’t your own. They’ve also had prac­tice with keep­ing their cool un­der hot tele­vi­sion lights while be­ing cri­tiqued be­fore an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence of mil­lions (“Chopped” airs in more than 30 coun­tries).

But the mys­tery bas­ket items — and the way chefs in­te­grate them into their hastily im­pro­vised but (mostly) im­pec­ca­bly pre­pared dishes — are pre­cisely why we’ve been tun­ing in to “Chopped” for more than 10 years. In re­al­ity, once they open those bas­kets, the con­tes­tants only have two min­utes to come up with a recipe that will seam­lessly com­bine those fla­vors with­out dis­guis­ing them. And that’s the true mea­sure of a “Chopped” cham­pion.

Spoiler alert: Ex­pect some “water­melon weird­ness” in Tues­day’s event opener. There’s also a men­tion of a funky soy­bean prod­uct (fin­gers crossed it’s my fa­vorite fer­mented food, natto) and a crunchy dessert sur­prise. For Part 2 air­ing on Jan. 28, Food Net­work is also teas­ing a … salad cake?

Judges for this edi­tion in­clude Jamie Bis­son­nette, Ma­neet Chauhan, Chris San­tos, Scott Co­nant and Angie Mar. Ted Allen hosts.

The tour­na­ment will run from Jan. 21 to the Feb. 18 $50,000 fi­nale (mark your cal­en­dars). Through­out the event, you’ll find video high­lights on food­net­work.com, and you can al­ways share your mys­tery in­gre­di­ent ideas on so­cial me­dia us­ing the hash­tag #Chopped.

And have you ever won­dered how they can pull off a cooked dish in the same amount of time it takes to heat up your oven or stove? I’ll let you in on a lit­tle se­cret: the chefs start each round with a pre­heated oven set to 500 de­grees Fahren­heit and a pre­boiled pot of wa­ter. Af­ter that, they’re on their own.

Ted Allen hosts “Chopped”

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