Here’s What Gets Competitors Sent Home on Chopped 

In the 15 years since Chopped debuted, the show’s structure has become a staple in the annals of televised cooking competitions. Faced with a basket of four mystery ingredients, competitors strive to transform this motley assortment into one coherent dish. After three rounds of emulating appetizer, entree and dessert courses, one chef is declared the winner. Similar to other pedigreed shows with a history, competitors approach Chopped forearmed with the knowledge of the time restrictions, the types of ingredients that tend to throw curveballs, and even some familiarity with the pantry or judges. Why, then, do some competitors seem doomed from the start to face the dreaded chopping block?


From overshadowing the basket ingredients (or forgetting them altogether) to shoddy plating and under-seasoning, here’s what get competitors sent home on Chopped.

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1. Forgetting a basket ingredient

Its a common sight — the competitor has no idea what to do with an ingredient and sets it aside with the goal of getting back to it later. Chances are, that ingredient gets overlooked and is still sitting on the cutting board, lonely and untouched, as the clock runs out (often, the camera manages to capture the contestant’s anguished look as they recognize this issue just as they step away from their cutting boards).

2. Adding a basket ingredient unchanged

Often due to a lack of understanding of the ingredient (or a desire to respect the ingredient”), contestants sometimes leave the basket ingredient in its original form, or merely give it a quick slice and dice at the end, hoping that the judges are fooled. Spoiler alert: the judges are never fooled.

3. Overshadowing the basket ingredients

Sometimes the competitor, faced with an ingredient theyve either never seen (or wish they hadnt), try to bury it beneath layers of alternate or competing flavours. Gingerly putting a speck of an ingredient in a cream sauce or submerging it in a stew or casserole often leads to failure as the judges fail to find enough of its flavour.

Chopped host Ted Allen and Chef Brian Colvin and Marisabel A Jordan in the final round face off of Season 55.

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4. Not having a game plan

Although the chefs know they only have seconds to formulate their strategy once they open that basket, sometimes they just start cooking and leave the planning until later. Letting the ingredients guide you may work if you had more than 20 minutes on the clock, but too many contestants have discovered the hard way that tossing ingredients into a pan and hoping for the best leads to a disjointed dish…and an elimination.

5. Sticking too close to the game plan

When a competitor comes to the table with an obvious plan of attack, that’s typically a good thing: preparing for candied items by melting them into a gastrique or turning a protein into a braise recipe they’ve practiced. What can cause problems is when a chef adheres too strictly to their preconceived ideas and doesn’t allow for the unexpected challenges of competition. Ingredients or equipment that behave in unexpected ways or are unsuited for a specific application often tank a dish.

6. Spending too much time preparing one basket ingredient

Basket ingredients can be deviously chosen to demand extra attention for preparation but spending too much time on a single ingredient can be the downfall of competitors racing the clock. There’s no use in lavishing precious moments on the perfect garnish when your protein is rushed or ignored.

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7. Relying on the ice cream machine

Contestants, enamoured with new gadgetry, can often find themselves in a sticky situation when ice cream fails to set in time. Let’s also remember that there is only one of these in the kitchen, which means that the first chef to the machine is often the victor.

8. Seasoning incorrectly

A lack of balance in seasoning is something that the judges, normally veteran chefs, restaurateurs or other experts from the world of food will challenge and pick apart. Insufficient salt or acid in a dish has sent many competitors down the hallway of on-camera confessionals and regret. An interesting twist on this error is when the contestant makes it to the second round and promptly overcorrects and presents the judges with something inedibly spicy or over-seasoned.

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9. Forgetting presentation

With two minutes left on the clock and the judges screaming, contestants can often panic and throw their dishes haphazardly on the plate, complete with splotches and dirty rims. Marks are awarded for taste, creativity and presentation, so shoddy plating is a surefire way to cost a chef critical points in close competitions.

10. Letting their bias cloud their judgement

Some ingredients can be divisive (the hardest to work with are the artificial or strong-flavoured items or ingredients that are so niche they are unfamiliar with them, such as regional alcohols or produce). Successful contestants taste the ingredient carefully and don’t get caught up with how they feel about the ingredient—instead working to ensure the balance of flavours in their finished dish is a Chopped masterpiece.

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