Food Network’s “Chopped” is basically a poor man’s “Top Chef,” but it’s improved noticeably in the past year to become a solidly entertaining cooking competition. I even thought last summer’s “Chopped Champions” was actually better than the previous season of Bravo’s venerable but fading “Top Chef.”
“Top Chef” has upped the ante this season with a terrific all-star edition, and now “Chopped” is following suit. A five-episode tournament will air in March putting Food Network stars to the test.
Among the contestants will be regular “Chopped” judges Geoffrey Zakarian, Amanda Freitag and Aaron Sanchez (hmmm, sourpuss Alex Guarnaschelli is noticeably absent, though she’ll be a judge); Food Network featured chefs Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Duff Goldman and Clair Robinson; and former “Next Iron Chef” and “Next Food Network Star” competitors Nate Appleman, Jacques Torres and Michael Prioetti. They even snagged a “Top Chef Master” — Anita Lo. (Hey, where’s Guy Fieri?)
“Chopped,” hosted by Ted Allen, pits four chefs against each other in a three-round competition. The chefs get identical baskets of offbeat mystery ingredients (like rabbit kidneys and dried hibiscus flowers) which must be incorporated into three courses — appetizer, entree and dessert. One chef gets eliminated after each course, with the winner of the all-star challenge getting $50,000 to donate to a favorite charity.
The competition will air at 9 p.m. Sundays starting March 6. Here’s the schedule:
March 6: Brad Sorenson, Debbie Lee, Lisa Garza, Michael Proietti
March 13: Anne Burrell, Claire Robinson, Duff Goldman, Robert Irvine
March 20: Anita Lo, Beau MacMillan, Jacques Torres, Nate Appleman
March 27: Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Geoffrey Zakarian, Maneet Chauhan
April 3: Final showdown featuring one winner from each round.
Sound intriguing? I’ll check it out; it’s always a whole lot of fun to watch talented chefs do what they do best.