In 2013 I had opportunity to compete in the CHOPPED kitchen on Food Network and (spoiler alert!!), I managed to cook my way through all three mystery baskets and win!!

My episode (cleverly named, “Without Missing a Beet”) featured all female chefs and was affectionately called “Ladies Night” on set during our day of shooting. I was thrilled to compete with a group of tough kitchen-women. In between the moments of fierce competition, we maintained a steady flow of  joking and laughter throughout the 14-hour day. And I am so grateful for that. Had there been only one annoying, pig-headed, full-of-themselves person in the bunch it would have been an even longer day. Some people will say we were all nice because we are a bunch of women. Those people have clearly not worked with female chefs before — we are a breed all our own — strong, forthright, focused and competitive. The “nice” part didn’t come from our gender — it came from us being decent people, grateful for the opportunity we were given and determined to have fun in this once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. 


In case you haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the episode for you with too many details. But here are a few answers to the questions I get asked most often:

1. Yes, we really did only have the time on the clock to cook. And no, we did not have any idea what was in the basket before we opened it up. 

2. The first time we saw the kitchen was about 30 minutes before the first round. We got a quick tour of the kitchen so that we understood the lay of the land. The rest was up to us….

3. The judges are not all jerks. Even the ones who seem like they are jerks. The truth is that their critiques last for about 15 minutes each so we actually get a lot of really good, honest feedback from them. I was grateful for this and used the feedback to do better each round. 

4. Ted Allen is a really nice guy — just as lovely and charming as you would expect. 

5. No we don’t get to eat the food. We can taste our dish while we’re cooking but do not get to eat the finished dish nor do we get to taste our competitor’s food. We have to plate four servings of each dish — one for each of the judges and one for the “beauty shots.” 

You can stream the full episode here. Take a watch and let me know what you think. What would you have made with those ingredients??



7 thoughts on “CHOPPED

  1. Taji, this is great! I’m looking forward to keeping pace with your b-u-s-y self through your entertaining and well-written blog. . .

  2. Just watched the episode last night. Congratulations! And by your answering the questions above, it def helps Chopped fans like me understand more. I’m glad you get more of a critique that we see; BUT I can’t believe its 14 hours! wow.

  3. Glad you posted the info about the Chopped episode, Folks need to know what you are accomplishing as they get to know you through your blog. Congrats once again.

  4. I loved your episode. I would assume you guys got to eat something over 14 hours? where did they fit that in? was it like Craft Services / box lunches? and lots of coffee I hope.

    • Thanks, Rick! Yep, they gave us breakfast and lunch — it was a total craft service thing — nothing special 🙂 But to be honest, my adrenaline was running so high that I wasn’t even hungry. However, when I was finally done with the day and emerged from the studio I realized I was STARVING! I was in New York by myself so I walked over to Eataly, stat at the seafood bar and had a dozen oysters, a few glasses of prosecco and some amazing pasta. That is on my list of my top five favorite meals ever 🙂

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