While every chef has what it takes to be in the spotlight, not everyone will star in a show on Food Network. That's because it's no easy feat. Even if you tune into shows like "Chopped" and "Hell's Kitchen," you're still only experiencing a fraction of the chaos, as many of the unglamorous moments take place behind the scenes. It can be hard to truly imagine what it's like to be in the chef's slip-resistant shoes unless you've stepped foot onto a set.
You have to look the part
Chef Allison Robicelli dished on what it was like to "survive" three rounds on "Chopped." She wrote a refreshing take on her experience for Medium.com where she did everything but hold back in her colorful writing. She explained how torturous it was to shoot for roughly 16 hours a day and function on just a few coffee breaks.
Robicelli explained that she'd often wake up at 3:30 in the morning – the unholy hour that chefs are typically fiddling with their phones in bed or catching up on reruns of "The Simpsons." From there, she'd try to look her best, as chefs aren't provided with the makeup and wardrobe stylists that the hosts are.
Many male competitors on the show could waltz up to the set with wrinkly eyes and five o'clock shadows and be considered handsome. Yet, Robicelli said that she had a tough time looking normal after just 10 minutes of cooking. Keep in mind that this is merely the tip of the iceberg for a day on a cooking show. If the day was comparable to that of a dinner shift in a restaurant, then the makeup regime is the equivalent of starting side work.
What's it like to cook on air?
Aside from the pressure of having to look good on the big screen, the culinary experts faced a slew of challenges revolving around the actual cooking. Robicelli went on the explain how challenging it was to create dishes with sparse ingredients – a belief commonly shared by other chefs who've been on "Chopped" and similar shows.
Carry Bingle, who's known around Nashville as the Peg Leg Porker, blogged about how his nerves were wracked even when the cameras weren't rolling. He didn't hold back when competitors asked him how he was feeling. He openly told them that he was worried that he'd slip up on TV somewhere in between making a masterpiece out of four ingredients and plating four meals in 20 minutes. He admitted that anyone who's even considered starring on "Chopped" needs major guts, which may lead you to wonder: What's in it for the chef?
Even the losers win
The answer is fame and glory. Even chefs who only make it through one episode on shows like "Chopped" end up with fame that lasts far longer than their 20 minutes of air time. Major and minor publications across the country avidly follow these shows and write about the eccentric, unique and talented personalities that cook up delicious and disastrous meals on TV.
The Boston Globe covered an event that took place last fall. Previous contestants from "Top Chef" were invited to cook for the first-ever "Top Chef Festival" which was held at the Museum of Science. The culinary invitees were asked to whip up something that was similar to the meals they'd been asked to make as their first assignments on "Top Chef." Events and write-ups like the one by The Globe show just how much recognition a TV show contestant can get.
"The exposure alone is enough to put a chef and his or her restaurant on the map."
The exposure alone is enough to put a chef and his or her restaurant on the map. Even the more renowned culinary masters inevitably become more famous. Take Bingle for example. After he appeared on "Chopped," The Nashville Post, Nashville Scene and The Tennessean featured him in stories. Not to mention, Food Network features the contestants on its website. Even the folks who don't ultimately take home the $50,000 grand prize are still winners.
Are you ready to get "Chopped"?
If this sounds good to you, and you think you have what it takes, you can find out how to apply to "Chopped" and other shows by visiting Food Network's website. Remember to leave your insecurities at home and bring plenty of caffeine and makeup if you're selected as a contestant.
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