‘Chopped’ Host Ted Allen Makes the Best Macaroni and Cheese You’ve Never Had

TV shows about food are ubiquitous, but only a few stand out with hosts that keep you watching, including recipes you can realistically use. It’s the practical shows helping us to eat better that win over viewers, even if we also celebrate how food connects us as Anthony Bourdain did.

The show Chopped on Food Network falls in the competitive reality show category, a genre we’ve seen done to death. Chopped more or less set the tone after more than ten seasons on the air. Hosted by Queer Eye alum Ted Allen, the setup has always been four amateur chefs taking on a complex cooking challenge.

Recently, Allen was interviewed about the show and gave some wise cooking advice about making an American favorite: Mac and cheese.

Ted Allen
Ted Allen | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Has ‘Chopped’ helped or hindered people in preparing quality food?

One can argue contestants being put under pressure on shows like Chopped has helped the public take a stronger initiative in being creative in the kitchen. It’s easy to become stagnant when it comes to making tasty dinners for yourself or your family.

While many food-making competitions, like those hosted by Gordon Ramsay, can be a little too stressful to the point of being harmful, Chopped makes the challenges more fun.

Yes, there is pressure, but it makes wannabe chefs think on their toes and create some truly inventive dishes. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have its share of disasters. Allen recently recounted some of the worst cases over the years.

At the same time, he’s an expert on food himself, and everyone perks up when he dishes advice on the best and simplest gastronomy concoctions.

Creating the best American food

We’re all celebrating the best of America this month, yet Chopped isn’t a show completely biased on American food. Many of the challenges imposed use ingredients and dishes from other countries to make the creations all the more creative.

Allen is a very American food expert, though. When asked a serious question about how to make a favorite American dish, everyone should pay attention, not including info on complementary wine choices. Those of you who feel challenged about creating a tasty macaroni and cheese dish could learn a thing or two from him.

In the above interview, Allen is asked about how to make the perfect mac and cheese dish. It was a connecting question to Chopped always having a “comfort food” round during the food-making challenges.

According to Allen, he says he always creates a béchamel sauce with Cheddar cheese as part of his recipe. He also recommends this:

“…a crusty breadcrumb top layer with maybe garlic, smoked paprika, or chipotle sprinkled on top of that.”

Was Ted Allen’s advice useful for future contestants?

One thing Ted Allen points out to help Chopped contestants is to create dishes you’re most comfortable preparing. Far too many participants try to create something on the spot and usually fail.

His advice should help all future contestants by simply bringing the best recipes they’ve created from home. Of course, these food creations need to have been successful and not experimental.

Not that Chopped still doesn’t spring numerous surprises on those participating. No doubt those who’ve watched the show religiously for the last decade have learned much, if not even improving their skills in the chance they compete themselves.

The true benefit of cooking competition shows is the contestants may improve over time simply by observation, much like what’s happened with trivia on Jeopardy. Also, learning a good mac and cheese dish will always win anybody over in your life, whether it’s a spouse, date, or your own children.