TV competitions have always been fascinating to watch, and for food fans, there’s nothing like watching chefs go at it with random and odd ingredients to cook with. Chopped is a Food Network phenomenon. It was markedly different from any other shows when it first came out in 2009. Now that the show has had 42 seasons of high intensity cooking, many viewers have questioned the reality of the competition. In true reality TV fashion, it might be better to watch the show with thoughts that the show is real. However, there are many reasons that point to the fact that the Chopped is more than likely fake.
For one, there’s always an angle. According to this article from Mashed.com, the producers are always looking for contestants that have stories to tell. It only makes sense given the fact that fascinating stories are simply better for television. And what happens when you pit good stories against other good stories? Great television happens. It makes sense for the best stories to make it to the final round, and this is what points to the show being totally fake. The producers want viewers to tune in up until the final challenge and decision is made. Therefore, they’ll likely promote the chefs that are most liked by viewers, which are probably the ones with the best stories (underdog stories, overcoming tragedy stories, etc.).
If the producers know who’s going to win ahead of time, this also means that the entire competition is rigged. There have been many times on the show when we’ve scratched our heads on the comments of the judges regarding the dishes served. There have been comments that just didn’t fit the bill of the dish or have left the chefs completely baffled. This could be because the judges were simply giving reasons to eliminate specific chefs. Many chefs that were chopped in the past have expressed confusion as to why they were chopped instead of their peers (who more than likely produced less appealing dishes). This article talked about how one pastry chef believed she was chopped for not being interesting enough for TV. Another chef in her competition was not chopped for serving pink (slightly raw) chicken wings. The pastry chef believed fully that someone else in production was influencing the decisions of the judges—and it may very well be the truth.
We’ve heard stories like that before from other competitive shows, but for a show like Chopped, it makes complete sense. While the show may only last for 30 minutes, the actual day of shooting can go as long as 16 hours. There are certainly a lot of things that can happen in 12 to 16 hours, and a short decision from the judges could include an entire round table discussion on who should go forward and who should be chopped. Some have even suggested that the winner is already decided before the competition even begins. While that may seem too far-fetched, it’s not hard to believe that the contestants might be getting more time than what is being said on TV. This article from Datalounge.com shows some fan comments on how the judges don’t sit through the entire time a dish is cooked. It’s truly hard to imagine successful chefs like Geoffrey Zakarian or Alex Guarnascheli sit through an entire 12-hour shoot just to watch other people cook. We’re pretty sure these chefs are usually busy with their own restaurants and businesses.
The editing of the show has got to be superb to only show 30 minutes of a 12 to 16 hour shoot. While we typically see the judges make comments on how the chefs are doing at a particular time, we also have never seen the chefs and contestants in a single frame at the same time. Most of the time, the cameras switch from one angle to another.
It’s difficult to assume anything or even to get any decent facts. The only fact that stands is this: the nondisclosure agreement for the show is quite high. There’s a lot at stake for contestants with the show. The prize money is a great incentive. $10,000 can definitely change someone’s life. However, if you even say a peep, you could get fined up to $750,000. That’s a huge price for talking, and according to this article from Cheatsheet.com, all contestants are required to sign the agreement before participating.
We know that shows can be secretive at times, but we can imagine why Chopped puts a heavy value on contestants being discreet. One of the things that attract viewers about the show is the unique process of the competition. If people only knew how the competition happens in real time, the attractive factor of Chopped might go down significantly. It seems that real life Chopped is very different from the show. Aside from the time factor, most contestants are also given do-overs as a result of mistakes. That’s how some contestants seem to miraculously get back in the game after a devastating error. The fact that the contestants also know exactly what’s going to be in the pantry before each round adds to their advantage. The show makes us believe that the contestants are all going into it with a lot of blind spots, but the truth is they have more advantages than it seems.
While all these reasons show just how fake Chopped might be, it really doesn’t take away from the show. The idea alone and the way it’s executed with shooting and editing are worth watching. True fans could only attest to just how exciting and interesting it is to see people get creative with such wild ingredients. At the end of the day, viewers will still keep watching the show—even though they know it might be fake—because Chopped is just fun to watch. At the end of the day, that’s really what counts for viewers and producers alike.