By Carol Dannhauser, Cooking Teens Editor
As many teen chefs know, “Chopped” pits four up-and-coming chefs against each other in a culinary race against the clock. Chefs need to whip up an appetizer, main dish and dessert featuring mystery ingredients that are hidden in a basket until just seconds before each course is started. (There’s usually some kind of wild card in each basket, like goat brains or grape soda or cheese curds.) Using extra ingredients from a fully-stocked pantry and a pair of refrigerators, contestants have half an hour to plan, prep, cook and plate each course.
They present their creations to a trio of judges whose candor can be spicier than a plate of Szechuan peppers. Following each round, one contestant gets chopped or eliminated based on the taste, creativity and presentation of his or her dish. The last chef standing wins $10,000.
Normally the purview of professional chefs, “Chopped” specials have occasionally featured lunch ladies, firemen and other assorted cooks sweating it out in the kitchen. (Ingredients in the mystery baskets tend to be much more forgiving for the non-professional contestants, fortunately.)
This will be the second time teens square off on the program, says Beth Schiff, supervising casting director at Notional, the company that produces “Chopped.” She’s seeking teens who “embody ingenuity in the kitchen, someone who puts their own spin on recipes and isn’t afraid to play with ingredients. They should be known in their circle of friends or family as the cook.”
You don’t need a fancy resume or a have taken a bunch of cooking classes to apply – cooking beside Grandma or Uncle Joe is fine, so long as you’re great at it. You do have to have a passion for cooking and a passion for food, Schiff says, and because it’s TV, you need an ability to articulate that. It also helps if you aspire to be an actual chef some day, but it’s not required.
As for the specifics, you must:
- Apply online here.
- Be 14-18 years old and in high school through June of 2013.
- Be able to make it to Food Network’s studios in the Chelsea section of Manhattan next month (July) for a 20-minute on-camera interview.
- Commit with your parents to returning to New York in January, 2013, for a full day to shoot the actual episode.
Then you have to bring your, uh, chops when the day comes. It’s a competition, after all. You do have to be somewhat competitive and really want to showcase your skills, Schiff says.