How to Throw Your Own 'Chopped'-Inspired Cooking Party
If you’re as obsessed with watching Food Network as I am, you’re going to be more than a little familiar with Chopped. Starring host Ted Allen and a rotating roster of celebrity chef judges, the show typically plays out like this: Four chefs cook through three rounds (appetizer, main course, and dessert). During each round, they’re given a mystery basket featuring four ingredients that they need to cook with and highlight during a strict timeframe. At the end of each cooking round, the three judges taste the dishes, decide whose was worst, and eliminate (or “chop”) that contestant.
Cooking this way, while certainly challenging and stressful, also seems sort of fun. So why not take inspiration from Chopped and host your own cooking competition?
Because throwing a themed party with planned activities is going to be huge in 2017, here’s how to channel Chopped and have your friends running around the kitchen, all in the name of a good time.
Write Your Own Rules
Typically, Chopped starts out with four chefs simultaneously cooking in individual kitchens. For each round (appetizer, main course, and dessert), they’re given a “mystery basket” featuring four distinctive (and frequently bizarre) ingredients. They’re given 30 minutes to whip up the main course and dessert and 20 minutes for the appetizer round.
For your Chopped party, you don’t have to be so exact. Since you’re likely just a bunch of home cooks working in one kitchen, feel free to extend the amount of time. Or, you can give different baskets to each of your guests while they cook in rounds (one person cooks appetizers, one cooks a main dish, and a third makes dessert). It’s your party, so customize it for however comfortable your friends are in the kitchen.
Make Teams, If Desired
On most episodes of Chopped, chefs compete individually and are tasked with tying together four bizarre ingredients. However, your friends may not have quite the culinary chops to pull that off, so allow them to team up in order to produce the best dishes possible.
Put Together a Secret Basket
The best part of throwing a Chopped-inspired party? Grocery shopping for the mystery baskets, of course! Head to your local Whole Foods or specialty grocery store and go crazy buying up ingredients that you’ve always been intrigued by but wouldn’t normally work with. Each basket should have four ingredients, in true Chopped fashion.
The key here is to shop for ingredients that kind of go together but not really. You don’t want to give your guests anxiety by giving them four ingredients that are insanely different and difficult to work with, but you also don’t want to buy foods that obviously leans toward a common dish. Instead, look for ingredients that have familiar elements (herbs, grains, vegetables, fish, etc.) but are a little uncommon. For instance, instead of buying rice, give your guests farro.
You also want to make sure you have a decently stocked kitchen with plenty of basics, such as oils, vinegars, spices, and produce.
Ready, Set, Cook!
And you’re off! After you’ve figured out your own Chopped-inspired rules, put together the baskets and prepped your guests for what’s to come, it’s time to cook. Unveil the mystery ingredients to your guests, set a timer, and cook away. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos and videos to mimic the cameramen in the real Chopped kitchen.
Set Out Food for Everyone and Judge
Your Chopped party doesn’t have to face the harsh judgments of Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, and Aarón Sánchez, so keep it friendly. Instead of having three people eat all of the food, make sure your guests make enough for everyone. Serve all of the appetizers, main courses, and desserts buffet-style and kindly discuss the merits and pitfalls of each dish.
And if all of the dishes are a bit of a letdown, just make sure to have a pizza place on speed-dial.