My wife and I are obsessed with food shows and competition shows. Chopped is our favorite because it combines food and competition the best. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, four contestants start out competing in the appetizer round where they get a random basket of four ingredients that must be incorporated into their final product. They are then judged by three chef judges, which is where the fun begins. Depending on the panel, my wife and I will argue over who will say what to which contestant and obviously who the judges will end up eliminating. Their are two more rounds, with a contestant being eliminated after each round until one remains the victor.
The best part of the show is the judges. Their synergy or lack thereof make for some awesome television. I present to you the definitive ranking of the recurring judges. To qualify for the ranking, you must have appeared on at least four seasons of Chopped. Sorry, Sue Torres.
- Amanda Freitag. Amanda is the best. She is funny. She knows her food really fucking well. She can be harsh but tends to try to find the good in every dish. I also appreciate her because she loves sweet desserts, especially ones loaded with chocolate.
- Alex Guarnaschelli. Alex is fucking great. Her criticisms are spot on and if you piss her off, she will give you the Alex look. You do not want the Alex death stare. She will also sometimes throw a curveball by starting a sentence negatively and then going super super positive and talking about how great the dish is. If you want to ingratiate yourself to her, cook her ramps well. She loves ramps.
- Aarón Sanchez. Aarón provides a lot of the humor and levity, but he will go after you for not using all of a given item. If you are given a whole chicken, you better give him thighs, breasts, gizzards, and butt if it’s there. Also, if you are doing a Latin dish, make sure it is spot on or he will take you to task. He will argue with the rest of the panel in favor of a contestant if the other two don’t necessarily agree.
- Chris Santos. Mr. Grumpy Bear and bacon afficinado. He might always have the most negative things to say, but he says them in such polite ways. Plus he has bacon tattoos. Do. not. give. him. undercooked. meat. His berzerk button will go off.
- Maneet Chauhan. The newest regular judge (and by new, I mean she started in season 7), Maneet brings her Latin/Indian fusion knowledge to the table. She can be pretty harsh in her critiques. She can also be super nice.
- Marcus Samuelsson. Oh Marcus. How I love thee. He will forever be known as “dish three ways man” or “soup man” in this household. When he was competing on Next Iron Chef, he made lots of soups and dishes three ways. We always joke that if you want to get Marcus’ vote, just make a soup or an overly complicated dish. He tends to be very nice in his assessments. I do not know if that man has ever said anything mean in his life.
- Marc Murphy. The Paula Abdul of Chopped, Marc will always find something nice to say. You can tell this by the fact in the credits, they roll past him saying, “I like it.”
- Scott Conant. I used to hate Scott, but he has grown on me over the years. Either he has gotten nicer, or I have become more of a cynical asshole. I think it helps that contestants in the later seasons know to not serve him raw red onions. For a long time, it seemed like chefs either didn’t know his intense hatred of them or thought they could be the one to change Scott’s mind. Watching him take chefs to tasks about using that ingredient got tiring. I think because it doesn’t happen as often, it’s made Scott more enjoyable.
- Geoffrey Zakarian. Geoffrey is the definition of upper class asshole chef. He doesn’t like anything, it seems. The man hates dessert that are too sweet. He hates regular human-sized portions of food that get served to him. I realize they don’t eat it all but most of these chefs are cooking for average Jills, not rich fuckers who want to see the least amount of food on a plate for a huge price tag. He is a snob and I hate him for that. I will forever remember the one contestant who told him to not be afraid to eat.
Ted Allen, the host, is a national treasure and he should host more shows. He is always so adorable and genuinely seems sad whenever he has to tell a contestant they have been chopped.
I assume most people will agree with my ranking but there is always dissent and discussion. I heartily encourage both!