Rick and me in the pantry on the Chopped set.
Our trip to go into the city for our CHOPPED experience was planned perfectly for the day before our big snow storm. I love driving in to the city over the GW bridge. (That’s what the George Washington bridge is commonly called around here.) Built in 1931, it’s a beautiful bridge. It’s a double-decker bridge and carries a huge number of vehicles across the mighty Hudson with no less than 14 lanes of traffic. I like being on top for the view, but then you have to share the road with all the trucks since they are not allowed on the lower deck.
Even more beautiful with it’s lacy trusses, is the Queensboro Bridge. It was completed in 1909. Very grand.
But I’m certain you don’t want to hear about the bridges, so I’ll get on with CHOPPED.
Walking up to the studio I saw a man dressed in a suit standing outside. I whispered to Rick “That looks like him, Ted Allen.” And it was. We walked right by him. I was trying hard not to stare so I just cast a furtive glance his way. He looked exactly like he does on TV. Kind of short, slight of build. Also standing around outside on break was one of the contestant chefs. Once inside the building, sitting right there in a chair texting on his phone was one of the judges, Geoffrey Zakarian. At this point I was feeling a little bit star-struck! Geoffrey Zakarian is quite handsome in person!
We had arrived during lunch break (2:30 p.m.) which was good and bad. Good because we got a private tour of the whole set; bad because we only got to see a small portion of the actual filming.
They take over Jerry’s entire studio, bringing a cast and crew of over 70 people with them. Poor Jerry has to rent out a studio across town if he has any commercials to do himself, and he’s relegated to a tiny shared office space. On the way down to Jerry’s office we passed the makeup and wardrobe room and Ted Allen’s dressing room.
So, let the tour begin! And what better place to start than the judge’s table (sans judges of course). I had to be respectful what I snapped photos of, I’m sure you understand.
The cooking area.
And just look at all the cameras and lights, both on the floor and in the ceiling!
Looking back toward the cooking and pantry section from the judge’s table.
We saw the rooms where they do the little interviews with the contestant chefs which they show throughout the show as insertions. We talked to two of the chefs and asked them how it was going. One said “well at least I made it through the appetizer course and I’m still here!” She looked and sounded familiar with her heavy accent. Hmm… The other chef looked very familiar too, like we had seen him already on the show. I told him I didn’t know how they made anything out of the basket ingredients. He shook his head, smiled and said “it isn’t easy!” We wished them luck and continued on our little tour.
Down in the area where the buffet lunch was set up was Alex Guarnaschelli chatting with some people. She looks exactly like she does on television too.
Also down here is where they photograph the food and the “chopped” plate. Ever wonder why the chefs have to make four plates of food for three judges? Here is the reason: one must be made for the shot.
Lunch break was over and we walked right through the set as they were starting back up again. All the judges were seated at their table and we saw the third and final celebrity chef judge, Marc Murphy. We walked back to Jerry’s office to give them time to get rolling again. I was telling him how two of the contestant chefs looked so familiar to us, so he checked the filming schedule and sure enough they were filming “Winners Week” where previous winners are invited back to compete against each other. I knew I had seen them before and not too long ago either! I’m not sure exactly when the segment we saw will air, but the following day they were doing “Halloween,” so I’m assuming it’s some time in the fall.
After spending some time with Rick and Jerry talking shop (Phantom cameras), we walked up to the control room to watch. The judges were discussing the chef’s dishes and what they liked or didn’t like about them. This was pretty interesting because the cameras were rolling as each judge just talked. They said the same thing about 15 different ways. How many ways of saying the chicken was too salty can you come up with? You’d be surprised! Obviously here is where the magic of editing takes place in choosing which clip with which phrasing goes into the final cut. After they all had their say (again and again) they took another break. They did a lot of that!
It was very interesting being up in the control room with all the monitors showing all the camera angles. Each monitor had the name of the person behind that particular camera and the director would be constantly telling them what to do. Zoom in here, get a close-up of the chefs all waiting to be chopped, show me the plate, etc. How he kept track of everything was pretty impressive.
It takes somewhere around 17 hours to tape an entire show, and since we were only there for a few hours we didn’t get to see a lot. We did however see the next chef get CHOPPED! Sorry, I can’t divulge any names! I wish we had seen the actual cooking part, but we didn’t. With any luck we’ll be invited back again in the fall when they are taping again.
And here is Rick pretending he’s being chopped by the door the chefs walk by after they are CHOPPED. On the show the door slides shut as the chef who’s been chopped walks by it. Someone must be on the other side of the door sliding it shut because it’s not an automatic door!
As we were leaving they were on break (again) and Ted Allen was just outside the door. Rick was brave and just stuck out his hand and introduced himself (and me too of course). So, I got to shake Ted Allen’s hand and chat for a few minutes until they were called back in to continue with their taping.
All in all, a very fun day! I have so much more appreciation for what we watch on television as the final product! If you haven’t ever watched the show I encourage you to do so. Maybe I’ve piqued your interest just a little bit?