CHANGED BY THE POWER OF CHOPPED
A while back, I stumbled across a TV show on Food Network called CHOPPED. The show is one part thriller, one part mystery, with a heaping portion of creative genius. Contestants are usually trained chefs from high dollar restaurants with an occasional food stylist or self-taught chef. My favorite episode is the Lunchroom Lady one where actual LL’s displayed talents they knew they had but either no one had noticed or the schools didn’t have the funds to allow them to spread their culinary wings.
Appetizer, entrée, and desert rounds are judged by NY chefs like Aaron Sanchez or Amanda Freitag, who are now celebrities, thanks to the show. There is the dreaded basket, a time limit, the bewildered look on the contestants’ faces when they open said basket. Then Ted Allen (of QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY fame), announces the contents, “You have teething biscuits, hot peppers, raspberries, and canned haggis. You must create an appetizer that will wow our judges or you will be CHOPPED! You have 20 minutes, GO!”
Aside from being as addictive as chocolate, the show has made me think of food differently. Already a foodie before I became a CHOPPED junkie, I am amazed at how the show permeates my own craft in the kitchen. If something doesn’t turn out, if I’m short on time, my mind invariably reverts to the show, and I go in to What Would Chopped Do mode.
Yesterday was such a day. I was preparing lunch for 40 folks at my husband’s office, as a sendoff to a sweet Vancouver lady who is leaving for a stint in London. Suzanne wanted grits, so as if I were on CHOPPED, I prepared grits 3 ways. Shrimp and grits, roasted chicken with Boursin cheese grits, and Bobby Flay’s grilled grit cake with roasted corn salsa.
While most everything went right, just like on CHOPPED I was running out of time and didn’t have time to grill the grit cakes. WWCD? I fried the suckers, but they didn’t turn out, so I punted and took the other two dishes along with a great big bowl of corn salsa that was amazing with the tortilla chips someone contributed to the meal.
The great thing about the CHOPPED mindset is you can apply it to just about everything in life. Especially writing. You have a certain amount of time. Be productive. Be creative. When you’re combing a crazy basket of stuff into a story, make sure your reader can savor each element in the story. Best of all, if something’s not working, take a deep breath, let go, and allow your creativity to take the story where it needs to go to create a delicious, cohesive dish. Bon appetit!