Three Things Chopped Taught Me About Life (plus Yes Chef)

Three things Chopped Taught Me about Life

I've mentioned it before, but we don't watch much TV in our house. We had an old Tivo, with a peculiar set-up that only allowed us to record one channel at a time, so it was always set to TV5 to record the French news and that was the only thing we watched. I download a few shows like Dexter and MadMen to watch on my iPad, but that was the extent of my TV watching. The exception was when we stayed in hotels and then we were glued to The Food Network which we love.

A few months ago we got a new Tivo, one that records up to 4 different channels at once. Now we record the French News (plus a few other beloved French shows) and every single episode of Chopped and Iron Chef. Chopped for me and Iron Chef for the mister. I absolutely love the show – not for the competition – but for the food creativity that is inspired by it. Much like Iron Chef, it can bring any good chef to their knees and the ones that survive are those that can think outside the box under pressure.

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Much like other people and shows that I am exposed to in life, I try to take away some life lesson, maybe to justify my watching/spending time on the topic? Here are the three things that Chopped has taught me about life (so far!):

There is more than one way to transform an ingredient.
There is more than one way to do anything in life including living your life. Recipes and advice are provided as a guide, but your individual formula can prove just as successful. Don't let anyone tell you that there is only one way to do something! Your version of you is perfect the way it is, modifying recipes and ingredients have resulted in some exceptional and unique dishes!

Get cocky, get chopped.
There is no need for arrogance. A little humility will take you far in life. There is always something to learn, you are never done. It is secretly amusing to me to see people who think they know it all get knocked off their pedestals. They are just asking for it…and often get just what they ask for!

Passion can trump pedigree.
I love to see the pastry chef with little-to-no cooking experience beat someone who has been in the business 20 years. Of course, great education and experience in the best-of-the-best companies (or restaurants) can get you far, but so can good old fashion gumption. I have seen some scrappy people get far in life because they had a passion that just would not die. There is something about not resting on your laurels and fighting for every win in life that seems much more satisfying.


The other thing I enjoy to the tenth degree is the judges. There is such a motley crew of talent and personalities there, I love it! It has also introduced me to chefs that I was completely aware of, being that I don't watch TV and don't live in NY where are a lot of these judges are based. People like Geoffrey Zakarian who adore, not sure if it is his demeanor or his skills, okay confession…it's for his glasses, I think he has a bigger collection than I do!

And then there was my introduction to Marcus Samuelsson. I enjoyed watching him as a judge because he was kind. He has a good face (as the French would say) and when he provides criticism it is delivered with such gentleness that it is impressive. And then he kicked ass on the all-star version of Chopped, killing everyone with his ability to come up with complex flavor profiles which got me hooked.

Marcus-Samuelsson (Photo credit: The Food Network)

When I saw that he was coming to San Francisco to promote his new book, “Yes, Chef” I was thrilled. In between signing up and attending the event I also learned that Marcus is one of the founders of one of my favorite food blogs, Food Republic. It is a really great mix of food and restaurant news as well as recipes and I love the format.

I attended the event and brought two books for Marcus to sign, one for me and one for you. I hadn't read it yet and I went home that night and started. I read the first page and a half and realized that I was crying. And then I couldn't stop. I love the book, the story is a journey, as you would expect from a memoir, but it is so well written and so not what I was expecting.

Marcus signing your copy of Yes-Chef?

I don't think you have to be a foodie to find value in Yes, Chef the lessons Marcus has learned and shared are life lessons, ones that anyone can learn from.

Bon appétit!

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  1. – Though born in Ethiopia like Mr. Samuelsson, I only dared to cook the complex foods from there thanks to his ’06 book (The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery…).
    – Funny thing is, like him – all chefs I admire and can think of right now are all people who I’ve ‘seen’ delicious looking food from – that I’ve never TASTED! Kind of a big criteria in chef evaluation no?! Cliché me all they want – mais personne est mieux que ma maman; )!
    – Love love your blog! I always say: I’ve met a lot of people I don’t want to be completely like, but none I completely do! But your simple beautifully creative life – comes in my closests: )!

  2. It’s still Julia Child for me.

  3. I’m not sure which one of these shows I’ve watched, maybe both, but I am just glued to them when they’re on – and I don’t watch TV much either. I am always stunned by the harsh evaluation of the judges, the weeping contestants, the hope of winning is palpable and the FOOD! The glorious things they do with food. Great post, Andi. I needed to read this today. There is more than one way to succeed — more than one way to execute a task. That is such a great takeaway from these shows. I’ve been pouring over my Victoria magazine — a long time love of mine (nearly wept when they ceased publishing several years ago) — and looking forward to fall cooking…

    1. @Jen, fall is my favorite time of year for everything: weather, clothes and definitely food! I am glad my post helped you in some way. For me, I rarely watch TV, so if I am, at the very least I should try to get some lesson from it, I guess I try to justify it as a guilty pleasure 🙂

  4. Natalia Gonzalez says:

    My husband is a chef so he is my favorite, also like Guy Fierry,

  5. I really like Pioneer Woman, does she count? She just has a great sense of humor and tasty, down-to-earth food (that’s not trying to be low-cal fake food!)

  6. Another chopped “rule” is never use Truffle Oil unless it’s a basket ingredient. Every sinlge chef I’ve seen break out the truffle oil when it wasn’t in the basket has been chopped because they use too much…stick with less robust flavor additions!

    1. @Sarah, that is SO true. Every time I see someone pulling it out to use I always say to my husband, “don’t they EVER watch the show?”!!!

  7. lydia goodman says:

    I love watching Chopped and I love your review. So glad Im not the only one that likes to see the know it all cocky chefs get sent packing!

    1. @Lydia, love it when that happens!

  8. wintersundays says:

    My favorite Chef would have to be Chef Madison Cowan. He won Chopped a couple of years ago and it was such a great episode! I didn’t know that Marcus Samuelsson was a Food Republic founder! I subscribe to that site! I came across your blog via a tweet on Andi Perullo’s tweeter account re: your Kindle Fire giveaway. What luck on my part! Fantastic posts thus far. I will def stick around! 🙂

    1. @WinterSundays, thanks so much, I have added you to me feed and can’t wait to start reading your blog! I will have to check out Madison I am not familiar with that chef.

  9. Kaci Guisinger- Harrison says:

    I love this show! I watch nothing but food shows and channels so I’m with ya! And Marcus ooooomg yummy!

    1. @Kaci, yummy but sometimes his clothing cracks me up!

  10. Brainy Pint Sizer says:

    I’ve been a fan of Marcus since he was head chef at Aquavit (here in New York City)…and only steps away from where I’ve worked for years. When he left and went out on his own, I was surprised because I thought he had a good thing going at Aquavit – why leave? But, it is clear from watching him now, he needed to move on. He needed to expand his horizons and do all the things he could never do at Aquavit. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Aquavit (and their head chef, also named Marcus) is doing great work there. I haven’t been to Marcus S.’s restaurant Red Rooster (in Harlem) yet, but it’s on my list. I’ve had several rain checks, but I’ll get there soon enough! P.S. I love Chopped too. Actually, I love most (not all) foodie-lovin’ shows, including Anthony Bourdain’s because he takes it to the streets often in exotic locations.

    1. @BrainyPintSizer, have you read Yes, Chef? You might get a different impression of the Marcus who runs Aquavit, even though we only hear one side of the story.

  11. Brainy Pint Sizer says:

    I haven’t read “Yes, Chef”, but I have every intention to do so…I have a few books on my “All I want for the holidays” list. 🙂

    1. @BrainyPintSizer, I have one of those lists too!

  12. So sad I’m two years too late for this! Lol. I love cooking shows including these two. I will seek out Top Chef Restaurants! I am also a fan of Marcus Samuelsson, saw him cook at the SOBE Food & Wine Festival and have a review of Yes Chef on my site!

    1. Andi Fisher says:

      @Nadeen, did you see him on Season 2 of The Taste? Love him!

  13. I only saw bits and pieces of The Taste. Will have to pay closer attention next season!