According to "Chopped" host Ted Allen, the one thing viewers of the Food Network hit clamor for most can't be found inside its infamous baskets of chef-vexing ingredients.
"Getting the judges to compete is the No. 1 thing fans ask for," Allen says. "They post it on my Facebook page on the average of two to five times a week -- and the show's been on the air for a couple years now."
And so the time has come for the judges to be judged.
Airing Sundays, the five-part "Chopped All-Stars" pits "Chopped" judges Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Geoffrey Zakarian and Maneet Chauhan -- plus a dozen other stars from the network and the culinary world -- against the clock and one another for bragging rights and a $50,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
And if you think the usual "Chopped" competitors are an intriguing bunch, Allen says, just wait till you see the famous folks facing down baskets full of rabbit guts and teething biscuits to be the last chef standing: network stars Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Claire Robinson and Duff Goldman and renowned chefs Anita Lo, Beau MacMillan, Nate Appleman and Jacques Torres. The winners of each round advance to the April 3 grand finale.
Worried that having an all-pro lineup will eliminate the disasters -- contestant meltdowns, melting goat brains, fires -- that make "Chopped" such fun to watch? Don't be.
" 'Chopped' is brilliant because it creates a problem organically no matter what," says Alex Guarnaschelli, who'll judge along with fellow regulars Marc Murphy, Chris Santos and Marcus Samuelsson. "No matter who you are, there's nowhere to hide from the ' "Chopped" monster.' " Or its omnipresent cameras.
"To see Geoffrey and Amanda and Aaron in their red 'Chopped' jackets being interviewed the way we're so used to seeing contestants being interviewed -- to see the tables turned that way -- it's 100 times better than I ever dreamed it would be," Allen says. "But what's most important is that these guys wanted it. It's like all four of them had something to prove -- and they did. They had to prove that they were worthy of sitting there in judgment of other people. And they proved it like crazy."