Did You Know the ‘Chopped’ Judges Taste Food Before It’s on the Judging Table?

Chopped is among Food Network’s most successful shows. Four chefs compete for a $10,000 prize by crafting tasty dishes in three timed rounds. After each round, one chef is chopped, with the last chef standing winning the prize.

But there are some aspects of the show that viewers don’t typically see on TV, including the judges sometimes tasting food before it hits the chopping block.

Judges will taste food away from their table

While Chopped and other food competition shows are condensed down into episodes fit for TV, the filming process actually lasts several hours. And because filming takes so long, the food presented to the judges for tasting isn’t exactly as the chefs intended. In fact, most food that is judged on camera is cold.

Amanda Freitag, Marcus Samuelsson, Alex Guamaschelli, Marc Murphy, Maneet Chauhan, Chris Santos of the television show "Chopped"
Amanda Freitag, Marcus Samuelsson, Alex Guamaschelli, Marc Murphy, Maneet Chauhan, and Chris Santos | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

“Occupational hazard,” Chopped host Ted Allen told fans regarding the judges eating cold food, according to FN Dish.

But the judges have a way to rectify this.

“They usually run over to the stoves the moment a cooking round ends so they can taste components the way they were intended,” Allen said.

For his part, Allen said he only tastes plates that look particularly interesting to him. His opinion, however, doesn’t factor into the judging.

Ted Allen notes that hygiene isn’t always great on the set

Allen gets to see a lot of what goes on in the Chopped kitchen, and he has noted that there are some hygiene issues. According to FN Dish, Allen said the most egregious hygiene issue he’s seen — aside from bleeding onto plates and dropping food on the floor — is sweating.

“If you’re talking about the issue of hygiene, something that really freaks me out is chefs who sweat profusely,” Allen said. “It seems like the sweatiest ones are the ones who like to lean over the plate while they’re tinkering with it.”

Allen did note that it gets pretty hot in the Chopped kitchen, even causing the judges to sweat as they sit on the sidelines.

‘Chopped’ focuses on sous chefs for a reason

Chopped is different from many other cooking competitions because of the chefs it brings into the kitchen. The show focuses almost entirely on sous chefs and mid-level cooks, save for a few special episodes. And Allen told FN Dish that highlighting sous chefs is intentional.

“I look at our contestants as the people who are actually behind the stove truly cooking your food for you day in and day out,” Allen said. “They’re the ground troops of the culinary world.”

He noted that while executive chefs are at the pinnacle of their careers, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are cooking every day. Instead, they typically do a lot of overseeing in the kitchen.

So according to Allen, Chopped has opted to focus on the mid-level cooks to test their skills and give them a platform for further success.

[Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly stated the judges aren’t tasting the food viewers see the contestants cooking on TV. This is the food the judges taste, cooked in the allotted time.]