Review: The Premiere Episode of Food Network's Chopped [video]
We were wrong — Chopped isn't just a ripoff of Top Chef — it's a cheap, maddening ripoff of Top Chef. We can only imagine the producers sitting in a room, trying to come up with enough subtle modifications so that it wouldn't be an exact ripoff of the established hit show. Ted Allen, as host, was dry and mechanical, simply going through the paces, and the production quality was pretty high (as far as the Food Network goes), but still nowhere near Bravo's. It's just three Top Chef elimination challenges, stacked one after another.
That said, Chopped still has potential — there are some talented contestants still to appear, so hopefully the level of food will be higher than the first episode.
The contestants were generally amateurish: Katie Rosenhouse, a 21 year old pastry chef; Summer Kriegshauser, a vegan/vegetarian private chef, Sandy Davis, a chef at the Union Theological Seminary, and Perry Pollaci, a line cook from Bar Blanc who was totally robbed of the win.
The judges were a respectable lot: Aaron Sanchez, Alexandra Guarnaschelli (of Food Network's Cooking Loft), and Mark Murphy (of Landmarc, etc). In a divergence from the Top Chef model, the judges offered color commentary while the contestants cooked — a sort of fusion of Iron Chef America and Top Chef — unfortunately, the commentary was dull and wasn't effective.
In the end, Chopped seemed like one big, televised casting call. By setting it up where each episode has a different set of contestants, Food Network is able to mine New York City chefs and cooks to find potential new talent for future shows.
By the way, the fact that Bravo bought commercial time during Chopped to promote Top Chef was such a brilliant f-ck you.