Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Virginia Woolf and Padma Lakshmi Be Damned, Uncle Ted Allen Finally Gets a Judges’ Table of His Own

Possums, the first thing you have to know is that, whatever else people who have not seen the show may say, Chopped, the Ted Allen-hosted cooking-competition show premiering tonight at 10 p.m. on Food Network, is not, we repeat, not a “Top Chef rip-off.”

As Uncle Ted himself put it, on Chopped, “[t]here is no sleep deprivation, no ‘Big Brother’ house full of bunk beds and cameras, no booze-fueled personal drama (as much as we all love the brainwashing and catfights on that certain show I used to judge).”

Or, as Miss XaXa put it, with Chopped you get no nuts.

That’s not to say there aren’t any fireworks. As Uncle Ted told us yesterday during a presser, “There is a lot of drama, [and] buckets of tears come out, [but] all the drama comes from the cooking.”

That’s right—Chopped is a straightforward cooking competition. Each self-contained episode features four young chefs and sous-chefs, mostly from the New York area, in a one-time competition for a $10,000 prize. The contestants have 30 minutes to prepare an entrée that must include all the ingredients in a mystery basket. The entrée is judged by a panel of chefs and the least favorite is, you guessed it, chopped. The remaining three contestants then prepare a main dish using yet another mystery basket of ingredients, and again the judges’ least favorite is chopped. The final two contestants prepare dessert with a third mystery basket of ingredients, the loser is chopped, and the winner gets the dough. Easy as pie, n’est-ce pas?

That’s it, which means that, unlike on Top Chef, “[t]here are no team or catering challenges. Best of all, there is no product placement, so you never see passionate lovers of good food being forced to use packaged convenience junk thanks to Kraft/ Altria/ Exxon’s sponsorship.”

(We loved seeing Uncle Ted playfully but deservedly nibble on the well-manicured but grubby hand that occasionally fed him.)

Sad as we are that we no longer get to see him on Top Chef (and that we were consequently saddled with Toby Young), we are, of course, delighted that Uncle Ted now has his very own show. Instead of merely being a guest at Tom and Padma’s table, the table is all his now. We were intrigued by a little move he gets to do on Chopped, removing a silvery cloche dish cover. During the presser, we asked him whether, as a gay man, he felt he had done it better than a straight host might have (we wouldn’t advise Tyler Florence to try the giveaway move). Uncle Ted conceded that one might perform the move in countless ways—“You could just pick it up like you’re picking up a cat, or with a flourish like a bullfighter with a cape”—but in the end he copped, not immodestly, to “extraordinary élan” in raising that cloche.

We encourage you to savor his extraordinary élan as Food Network raises the cloche on Chopped, tonight at 10 p.m.

(We are working on an exclusive interview with Uncle Ted, which we will bring to you forthwith, in which he discusses, among other things, seeing Padma Lakshmi naked. Miss XaXa, not to be outdone, replied, “Oh please. Everyone’s seen her naked. Practically every Monday on this blog.”)


Anonymous said...

Oh come on! There's no way Ilan could ever be considered extraordinary.


Oh, wait. You said élan.

Anonymous said...

Any plans to blog "Chopped?"

KristineB said...

Anyone notice that one of the contestants on Chopped (Perry) was a castoff of Top Chef? Pretty sure he was one of the 50 chefs that didn't make the cut in the second episode of TC (at Craft). He was rather smug in his brief appearance.

Anonymous said...

I Love Ted and really miss him on Top Chef, but I'm impressed with Chopped. All it needs is a snarky blog.

Anonymous said...

Meh... Chopped's a cooking gameshow. It was fine, but I won't make an appointment to see it. (Because they're all different contestants, you can watch it whenever anyway). Having a "rooting interest" and seeing how the chefs progress is a big part of the TC appeal... I get Ted's point, but the snarkiness is kind of unwarranted. The two shows are totally different.

agnes gooch said...

I enjoyed Chopped. I happened upon it during the entree part, and immediately got sucked in. So much more civilized and focused on the food, and I find Ted's clipped delivery endearing. It's a very tasty alternative to my other competitive food-show addiction.

And that interview is an absolute hoot! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm on the fence after one show. I'll see if I warm up any more after a couple more episodes. I don't know. Some people are great personalities as contributors, but not really cut out for the host role. I fear Ted is one of those people.

Anonymous said...

I thought Ted was the only element that livened up the show.