Tag: Ted Allen (Page 1 of 2)

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

The Next Food Network Star: the tides are turning

With the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop to this season’s “The Next Food Network Star,” it’s safe to say that the proverbial tides are turning as we move deeper into the competition. Two contestants have emerged as front runners quicker than you can blink, and a few others are regressing.

Last night’s episode began with “mentor” Giada Di Laurentiis announcing the initial challenge, which was to create a party bite based on a specific holiday or event, and using the three ingredients that were set before each of them in a picnic basket.

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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: TMI

Sunday’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two instances of “Too Much Information (TMI),” and one of them was the reason for a contestant to be eliminated. The final five chefs gathered at the Jet Blue terminal at JFK Airport, feeling good and excited about their trip to Miami, where they would participate in a larger Food Network celebration of sun and decadence. But of course, there was a challenge attached to their airport experience, and along with network star Ted Allen, chef Michael Coury from OTG, the company that runs the restaurants in the terminal, was on hand to help assist and judge. There are a few different cuisines available in the terminal, and each contestant was assigned a cuisine to re-create their own dish. Jeffrey had Italian, Melissa had tapas, Michael French, Jamika sushi and Debbie steakhouse.

Jamika went first and she made a seared tuna salad with a miso vinaigrette. It looked like a decent salad but the judges were a bit underwhelmed and not impressed with a lack of creativity. She also made a comment in her presentation about airline food and “the toilet not being your friend” on flights. Are you kidding me? Ted Allen called it TMI and he was correct.

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The Next Food Network Star: Into the fire to start Season 5

Nothing like being thrown into the fire, huh? Last night, Season 5 of “The Next Food Network Star” kicked off with the ten finalists meeting in their cramped living quarters, and then being basically being thrown into a cage with wild animals…..well, you know what I mean. They had to cater a party for the network’s “sweet 16” party, where celebrities and Food Network stars would be eating their creations and critiquing them. Yikes.

The ten (Brett August (Washington Heights, N.Y.), Katie Cavuto (Philadelphia, Pa.), Melissa d’Arabian (Keller, Texas), Teddy Folkman (Alexandria, Va.), Eddie Gilbert (Manhattan Beach, Calif.), Jen Isham (Orlando, Fla.), Debbie Lee (West Hollywood, Calif.), Jamika Pessoa (Atlanta, Ga.), Michael Proietti (New York, N.Y.) and Jeffrey Saad (Los Angeles, Calif.). were broken up into two teams of five, with Bobby Flay picking those teams. Bretty, Teddy, Jamika, Melissa, and Jen made up one team and Michael, Debbie, Katie, Jeffrey and Eddie the other. Each team had $1200 to shop for their ingredients and five hours to prepare their dishes. The event would be held at Alex Guarnaschelli’s Butter restaurant.

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