I don’t really cook, but I’m hooked on a Food Network “competition” show called CHOPPED.
The concept is simple. Four chefs compete to make the best of a bad situation. A line up might be a personal chef, a sous chef, an executive chef and a restaurant/owner/chef. Or a culinary instructor, someone returning to the line after a five year absence, a caterer and a hotel chef.
There are three rounds and one person is “chopped” each round until only one remains to take home the 10k prize. These folks have to work for their money. In each timed round (appetizer, entree, desert) they are given a mystery basket of what are generally horrific ingredients. Often there are ingredients that the chefs haven’t worked with, don’t know what they are or how to cook them. Or are ingredients no self-respecting chef would use. (i.e. canned fruit cocktail, licorice, scallops and leeks– how do you make an appetizer from that?!) On one show, they had to be told the seeds of the fruit they had to use were poisonous. Yep, not a single seed could find its way into their dish and the darned thing looked like all seeds!
They have a huge pantry of ingredients to pull into their dish, but the mystery basket ingredients are supposed to come through loud an clear in the dish. A panel of well-known chefs and restaurateurs taste the dishes, give feedback and ultimately decides who goes each round.
While I can’t stand the staged reality programming where high drama and back biting are so popular, I find I love watching a heads-up, winner take all battle. I find myself hoping they’ll all get food on the plate in each round before the buzzer sounds. I’m sad for them when they realize they’ve forgotten to plate something they left on the stove or only got it onto two plates. I’m a little irritated when a chef leaves the sauce in the pan and the judges ask the other competitors, “Would you mind if we taste the sauce? Can he/she bring it over here?” Especially in the first round. How do you win that argument? You’re a jerk and insecure about your food if you say no. You’re an idiot if you say yes and give away your edge. It is a competition!
I’d think a more fair way to approach those things that are true mistakes and not a matter of kitchen mismanagement would be: Once the buzzer sounds, you have thirty seconds to review your plates and correct any issues that can be corrected in that thirty seconds. After that…you’re toast. No do-overs.
How would you/do you answer when you’re put in the impossible situations where you can be gracious and screw your own chances or you can take a less compassionate/flattering position but preserve your advantage? Come on. Tell the truth. Are you a “take the high road” person or a realist who has the eye on the prize?
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