Tag: Chopped (Page 1 of 2)

5 questions with Amanda Freitag from “Chopped”

We have secured another interview with a judge from Food Network’s hit show, “Chopped.” Amanda Freitag, who is a frequent judge on the show, is one of the judges for the current round of “Chopped Champions,” which began last Tuesday. The show, which pits winners of the regular show from the past few seasons, continues tonight and the five-week event concludes September 28 with a finale of the previous four winners. Anyway, here is our chat with Amanda Freitag:

Premium Hollywood: So what did you notice about the level of skill from the chefs in the “Chopped Champions” round as opposed to just the show “Chopped?”

Amanda Freitag: I noticed that the food was much more complex and the flavors were at a higher level.

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An interview with Beth Schiff/Chopped casting director

The Food Network’s “Chopped” is one of the network’s best shows. I posted something about the show last summer regarding the judges and how harsh they were, but they have since lightened up, or seem to have done so. The show keeps getting better and better, too, and part of the reason for that is the excellent casting. Lucky for us, we had the privilege to speak to the show’s casting director, Beth Schiff, about how the process works in choosing contestants for “Chopped,” and some other burning questions you may or may not have when watching this awesome show.

Premium Hollywood: How did you get involved with Chopped and what did you do before this?

Beth Schiff: I have been involved with “Chopped” since the first season. I have been casting for over 14 years. I started in commercials and industrial films, which I still do, but recently I have been working on mostly cable TV projects.

PH: How does the decision process work from application to audition to show taping?

BS: There are always so many factors that go into casting–gender, age, skill (if applicable), appearance, personality, geography, availability–just to name a few. For “Chopped,” it’s a videotaped interview that is submiited to the producers at the production company, and then to the Food Network for approval.

PH: What are the key things you look for in a contestant?

BS: Skill and personality. Can you make something out of nothing and have fun doing it? Can you make a $10,000 meal out of our mystery baskets? And why should the Food Network choose you?

PH: Have you ever been surprised, either pleasantly or unpleasantly, at the choice of a contestant after the show had been taped?

BS: There have been a few contestants that I thought would not do that well that have won, and others where I thought they would kick ass and went out in the first round. It’s a game. It’s anybody’s game. So skill is important, but strategy and focus are key.

PH: Do you also choose the judges and/or how does that process work?

BS: Judges are chosen by the Food Network. I do sometimes cast guest judges, who are usually New York restauranteurs.

PH: Can we expect anything new or exciting for future seasons of Chopped?

BS: We are really thinking creatively — fun holiday episodes, and chefs with various backgrounds, championship rounds. Stay tuned!

Chefs, or chef reps, here is what Beth is looking for in casting for the show: “I am seeking competitive passionate skilled chefs, in specific geographic areas – NY Tri State area, Boston, Philly, DC and Atlanta and Chicago. All must lie within about 50 miles from the city center. You must be available for a one day shoot/competition in our studios in NYC sometime in September, October or November. All chefs must fill out the application online at choppedcasting.com

Five questions with Alex Guarnaschelli of “Chopped” and “Alex’s Day Off”

Alex Guarnaschelli has become ubiquitous on Food Network lately, first on “Chopped” as a frequent judge, and now on her own show, “Alex’s Day Off,” which airs Sunday mornings at 9:30 am ET/PT. The premise of her new show is showing how a working mom, restauranteur and TV personality can juggle all of that and still cook great meals at home.

But our questions focused on Alex regarding her role as a judge on “Chopped.” A few months ago, we published a post asking the producers of the show why the judges have to be so angry and tough on the contestants, and it spawned a lot of comments from viewers who also felt the judges were too harsh. So we had the opportunity to ask Alex about the show–and in particular if the harsh criticism is real or fabricated by producers……

Premium Hollywood: I think I speak for anyone who has watched “Chopped”….are you guys told by the producers to be as harsh as you are to the contestants, or is that how you want to come across?

Alex Guarnaschelli: The producers don’t tell us how to act. We talk a lot, we deliberate, we argue, we struggle with what some contestants make, we wish everyone could be a winner, we sympathize with how the contestants feel, we sweat along with them, because we know how hard it is to compete under such pressure. Sometimes, I may have spoken 10 minutes with someone about their dish and had it edited down to a facial expression due to time. That can be hard to watch! I also think we use a lot of “chef speak”. We speak to each other as we would in the kitchen.

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I have a question for the producers of Food Network’s “Chopped”….

And that is, do you instruct the judges to be so bitter and critical, or did you just choose judges that you thought would fit that bill? The show, in its second season, is becoming more unwatchable by the episode, and not because the tempo of the show creates pressure that occasionally causes a contestant to slice off a fingertip or serve raw poultry and fish bones. It’s because of those judges–the likes of Alex Guarnaschelli, Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, and Geoffrey Zakarian–who sit on their high horse and just rip these poor chefs to shreds.

If you haven’t seen the show, let me give you a brief synopsis. Host Ted Allen (who is the show’s lone bright spot) introduces four chefs, who are usually restaurant owners, head chefs, or seasoned sous chefs, who will go head-to-head in a competition of three rounds. Each round, they are given a basket of mystery ingredients–ingredients that usually do not go together, maybe like duck breast, avocado, maple syrup and passion fruit. They have to create an appetizer, main course and dessert–but after each round, one contestant is “chopped,” or eliminated, until the dessert round pits the two remaining chefs, who square off for a $10,000 prize.

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The Next Food Network Star: paying for past mistakes

On “The Next Food Network Star” Season 5, there have been some catty moments, and, well, moments of gameplay that border on vicious. So it wasn’t really a big surprise last night when the judges announced who they were eliminating. We’ll get to that in a bit, because this episode had a lot going on, including one of the finest (read: horrific) moments in the show’s history.

The show began with Bobby Flay playing network executive, and telling the remaining seven contestants that they would start off this week’s episode by creating a burger from a specific region of the country (not necessarily where they were from). The winner would have a burger on the menu at Bobby Flay’s new burger joint in Connecticut (book my flight, I want to go there right now). They would then have 30 minutes of camera time to describe their creation.

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