“Chopped” host Ted Allen dishes about life on the Food Network show
Your average foodie has a lot of reasons to envy Ted Allen.
For starters, he’s the James Beard Award-winning host of the Food Network’s fabulously addictive reality competition, “Chopped.” He’s the author of two cookbooks, “The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes” and “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks.”And, if that weren’t enough, Allen and his partner, interior designer Barry Rice, live in a Brooklyn neighborhood populated by upscale food and wine shops designed with the gourmand in mind — from an artisanal butcher shop specializing in homemade sausage and heritage cuts of beef, lamb and pork to a French bakery “the size of a shoebox” that sells macarons “as good as in Paris.”
“A mile from me, there’s a store that sells nothing but artisinal mayonnaise,” boasted Allen, who goes grocery shopping every day with a backpack.
I recently chatted with the “Chopped” host about television, food and fame. (Here’s the complete article about Ted Allen, which ran in our Vintages section.) Below are a few interesting tidbits that didn’t make it to the printed page.
How would you describe your home cooking style?
I’m pretty eclectic. I’m probably still a little more meat-centric than I should be. That usually is the first decision I make. I really love grilling, braising and the long cooking of tough cuts, that’s usually the thing that gets me the most excited … Except this time of year. Then tomatoes are driving the bus, for sure.
Has “Chopped” changed the way you cook?
Every competition show teaches you a lot about cooking and ingredients. Listen to enough shows where someone says “This dish needs acidity” and you begin to apply that at home when you’re making chili or vinaigrette.
What about the way America cooks?
At a book signing in Milwaukee, a woman told me “My son now asks when we serve dinner, ‘Did you taste this before you sent it out?’” Kids love (the show)…. If you raise a kid to love cooking and food, you’re giving them a lifelong gift.
What are some of your earliest culinary memories?
Growing up, our mother always encouraged sister and me to cook, garden variety stuff like pizza and burgers. The first time a friend cooked any sort of serious gourmet food for me was in college … (He made) individual Beef Wellingtons. I can still remember it. I’d never had food like that before.
You started out as “the food and wine guy” on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” then transitioned to hosting “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America.” Did you fall easily into the role of the “expert”?
It’s just my natural instinct to try to explain food in a way that’s digestible for a mass audience. That’s important in broadcasting. I think I would rather open doors than shut them.
What’s your shooting schedule like on “Chopped”?
Our last run was 44 episodes over three-and-a-half months…. It just turns into this blur of tattoos and chunky glasses and clogs and baggy pants with chili peppers on them …
Are those judges as mean as they look?
This show needs to preserve an atmosphere of tension. We want the chefs to be nervous, scared, apprehensive. If I act like a human, I get yelled at. They (edit) me to be this stiff, straightforward macho guy…. All of the meanest, most cutting remarks get left in, and all the kind words get cut.
Our judges are kind people … They get it. They’re all competed, everyone of them, and they know how hard it is.
“Chopped” host Ted Allen appears Sunday at Sunset Savor the Central Coast, a food, wine and lifestyle festival sponsored by Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitor and Conference Bureau. For more details, call (800) 634-1414 or visit www.savorcentralcoast.com.
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