I am a professional chef and competed on Season 32, Episode 6, of Food Network's "Chopped." I just found out that my episode is now syndicated on Hulu, so now people can watch me embarrass myself for all of time. So what the hell, AMA about the process, casting, how I prepped for it, and the general ridiculousness.

Proof 1: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2ApTPLAdaA/ //

Proof 2: https://imgur.com/7MPj0rq

ETA: Went to bed, this blew up. Hah. I'll go through everything today!

Comments: 593 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

powabiatch866 karma

Is the food cold by the time the judges taste it?

nono_baddog402 karma

I’ve worked in restaurants for over a decade. We all have no problem eating room temp food, believe me.

Standing over a trash can eating a full meal at room temp in under a minute at 11 pm is the true ‘chef’s table’

eatsnow60 karma

You forgot the part where you eat it out of a pint container. #plating

eatsnow319 karma

Oh yes. So cold. If you have something that needs to stay frozen, they'll throw it in the freezer for you, but even then it's going to be melted. My dessert had some frozen aspect to it, and it was goo by the time it got to the judges. There's some leniency, there. The won't rake you over the coals because the laws of thermodynamics don't work in television's favor.

Vecna_Is_My_Co-Pilot71 karma

Aren't there things like sauces that can change drastically if they are left to sit? How does that work?

Would a good contestant consider all this while cooking?

eatsnow57 karma

In my opinion, yes. That's part of the game. From watching lots of episodes, that seems to be where people go wrong. They try to show off technique rather than solve the problem in front of them.

NoHacksReq694 karma

When you're low on food in your house and have to make something from just the last few things you have in your fridge, do you pretend that you're back on Chopped?

eatsnow1031 karma

More often than I'd like to admit. It's a fun party trick. My friends get a kick out of inviting me over, giving me a something, and then letting me ransack their kitchens for the rest of the ingredients.

PanicOnFunkotron516 karma

I'm sorry if this is a really broad question, but what's a day of filming like? I've seen interviews where people say it's a whole 9-hour day, and the judges can take up to an hour deliberating on each dish. What was it like for you?

Do they warn you about the ice cream machine? I feel like so many people trip up tying to make ice cream. In fact, are there any special warnings from the producers? I think I read one guy say they warned him not to make bread pudding, because people make it so much the judges kinda hate it.

eatsnow1984 karma

I wrote this piece right after Chopped aired. It'll give you a better (and more amusing) break down of my thoughts on the day: https://medium.com/@brookesiem/what-its-like-to-compete-on-and-win-food-network-s-chopped-760bf1779420

But the TL;DR of it is that my day was ~15 hours. Call time was ~5am and I was home around 11pm. The winner has the longest day because all the talking head segments are filmed after each contestant is done filming. You have to go over the whole day, in the present tense like you're narrating what happened. So if you just got chopped, you still have to sit there and re-live whatever you just screwed up. And the longer you're on the show, the more footage there is to go over, so the longer the interview is.

Judging takes a looong time. I'd say each contestant had about a half hour of critique per dish, which means the judging for the appetizer round alone took two hours. They had us sit and take breaks, which was welcome because I remember my back was really bothering me that day.

I don't remember them warning us about particular machines, but I do know that there is a cursed bowl somewhere on set. Apparently anyone who uses the bowl always gets chopped. And so does anyone with a fedora.

All in all, it was the single most emotional day of my life. And I don't say that lightly. I've had my fair share of awful shit in this world, but Chopped is a particular beast. You expect to be exhausted, under time pressure, nervous, etc. What you can't account for is the intangibles like being worried about your personal and professional reputation, how the show will be edited, and the fact that you're mic'd and on camera for 10 hours straight. And you forget that the Chopped people know all about you because you've been interviewed multiple times over months before you get to the actual show. So when you screw up, and you're sure you've just embarrassed the hell out of yourself on national TV, that's when the producer chooses to say, "how do you think your dead dad would feel about this?" And then you cry. And then you think you're going to get chopped. And then you don't. But you have to do it again. And the sound guy heard you pee. And then you get yelled at for making shitty food. And then you win $10000.

It's a weird weird day.

PanicOnFunkotron457 karma

Wow, that's probably the most detailed account of the filming day I've ever seen. Thanks for writing that up!

eatsnow304 karma

You're welcome! I'm glad I have that record-I would have forgotten so many details.

newtothelyte59 karma

What an intense description. With all that being said, do you think it's worth it? The money seems okay but its nowhere near life changing, especially after taxes. Did you see a boost in your career after winning?

eatsnow59 karma

Since I won, it was definitely worth it. I'm not sure I would have said that had I lost.

That said, I'd do it again in an heartbeat. And since I give way less of a shit now than I did when it was filmed, I'd just go in and have fun.

cfwphotography72 karma

Exactly what I was thinking! Thank you for writing it—it was harrowing and mesmerizing at the same time. What a crazy world we live in!

I guess you can think of it this way: you made $666.66/hour of hell on Chopped! A demonic hourly wage to be sure!

eatsnow10 karma

Best day of work I've ever had!

madipieee56 karma

Since judging takes so long, how do they ensure each dish is served fresh and to the temperature the chef intended?

eatsnow13 karma

Pasted from another answer:

If you have something that needs to stay frozen, they'll throw it in the freezer for you, but even then it's going to be melted. My dessert had some frozen aspect to it, and it was goo by the time it got to the judges. There's some leniency, there. The won't rake you over the coals because the laws of thermodynamics don't work in television's favor.

HeadFullOfBrains504 karma

After you open the basket, is it really just "ok go" or do you get a few minutes to think before they start the clock?

eatsnow1012 karma

There's a few minutes of lag time that is officially called, "chefs staring at food." You have to take the ingredients out and line them up in front of the basket so the cameras can get the shot. When each camera has a shot of each chef staring at the food, you get the okay to go and the clock starts. This takes a minute, maybe two. But I found it to be key, because it allowed me to think through a scrappy plan.

HeadFullOfBrains283 karma

Cool, thanks! I always thought there's no freaking way I'd be able to just...go.

eatsnow525 karma

you'd be surprised at what you can pull off when its your only focus

sherlock----7547 karma

How many times do They do the “chefs open your baskets”. I always think it’s more then once the way some come up with dishes in seconds

eatsnow82 karma

They film us opening the basket multiple times, but they place a cloth over the ingredients so you can't see what's in the basket. Then, when they've gotten all the shots of everyone opening the basket, they tell you that this is the "real" one. Everyone turns around, they remove the cloth, and then you turn around, open the basket, and see the ingredients for the first time. That's when you take them out and they film "chef's staring at food." That part only happens once.

USMCLee30 karma

I know I'm late to the party. If you get around to answering I'd love one.

My wife loves this show and I watch it with her on occasion. We always wondered if there is actually a time limit and how hard a limit.

From this comment it seems that there is a time limit. Is it a hard limit as the filming makes it out to be? Like if you still need to add the garnishment they let you.


eatsnow56 karma

Hard time limit, and it's real-time. Not fudged TV time.

Vikkunen260 karma

I've always wondered, are those basket contents truly a surprise? Or are competitors tipped off in some way ahead of time?

eatsnow513 karma

We were told a few weeks ahead of time that it would be a chocolate-themed episode. I was told they rarely tell contestants if there's a theme, but for some reason, they decided to tell us...maybe because chocolate is so persnickety and none of us were chocolatiers? Regardless, I don't think it made much difference because it's sort of like being told there would be dairy in every basket. Chocolate as a concept is so broad, that it's not like you could plan for it. Beyond that, we had no idea.

coh_phd_who220 karma

Why do they only have a single ice cream machine? It always seems like there is a fight for the ice cream machine in the final round. In the sweets specials they have a second, so it isn't like they can't do it; they just seem like they like screwing over a chef at random.

What other unexpected ingredient(s) are always in short supply?

I am always amazed that after getting 4 random ingredients everyone has an idea in mind and runs off to make a dish. Do they give you some time between opening the basket and starting the clock that the audience doesn't see, or is it really just run off and make things in an instant?

eatsnow532 karma

It's all to manufacture drama. Even in the pantry, there are limited items. Like one bunch of parsley. So if you need parsley and someone else has it, you either need to hope they give you some or think about something else.

I'm not sure how everyone else approached it, but my mantra was just to stick with what I knew. And I mean that on a very basic, technical level. A dressing, for example, is fat and acid. In my head, I didn't care what the fat and acid was. So pomegranate seeds (acid) and white chocolate (fat) would work just fine, and my job was to find ways to bridge the flavors. Beyond that, it's about making changes on the fly because there is no changing your mind once you pick a direction. Chocolate mousse didn't set up? Better melt that shit or freeze that shit and turn it into something different and move on.

PanicOnFunkotron215 karma

Blow our minds right now. What's one thing that happened during filming that made the at-home viewer in you go "I never would have guessed they did that"?

eatsnow811 karma

They splice together your words in editing to make sentences you never said. At one point, I "say" in a voiceover that, "Winning is going to be a cakewalk." I promise I never said that...because it's cheesy and I refused to say anything campy and stupid. But if you listen carefully, you can hear where they splice it together.

I now know that this is common in reality TV and I can point it out whenever I watch some reality show, but it was very, very odd to see it applied to me.

corgocracy63 karma

That's very angering to hear actually. Low key slander and defamation, literally deceiving thousands of people into thinking you did/said embarrassing things you did not do.

It's like that Simpson's episode where an exposé show edited what Homer said to fabricate a confession of a crime.

eatsnow7 karma

You totally sign your life away, so they can do whatever they want.

Riding_the_Lion26 karma

That kinda sucks... As a cook I usually find a lot of the chefs on TV obnoxious and really head-strong, like oh I would not want to work with them.

I'll think twice and try to listen for the splice!

eatsnow14 karma

They can turn you into whoever they want depending on how they edit, but at least for my episode, everyone was accurate to who they were in real life. I got a great group, and I think everyone was presented well.

II-MooseMan-II204 karma

Did it launch your career into becoming a professional chef? Or where you already working as a professional chef? How did it affect your career is what I’m asking.

eatsnow488 karma

I was in a strange position because during the 9 month lag between when we filmed and my episode aired, I had left the bakery I owned in NYC in order to travel for a year. I was in Portugal the night it aired, and we had to jerry-rig a streaming setup at 2 am to watch it.

I never went back to the traditional restaurant world (I was in it from 2008 to 2017), so I guess Chopped was my swan song. It didn't launch a cooking career, but it did give me a small injection of social media followers which has been helpful in other ways.

prettydarnfunny54 karma

So what are you doing now?

arcaneresistance150 karma

Chattin with people on reddit

eatsnow45 karma

internet's gotta be good for something.

eatsnow31 karma

I transitioned into writing/more creative projects but still do recipe development to pay the bills. I've got a book in the works with a mental health focus, and just put out a piece about it in the Washington Post.

Imma onion. Lotsa layers.


pandas_love_pancakes179 karma

What’s Ted like? He seems like a pretty cool dude.

eatsnow601 karma

Ted was great. Aside from winning, he was my highlight of the day. I wanted to invite him to dinner.

Because he stands so much at that corner of the judge's table, they had a square of the floor cut out and a softer, pillowy floor installed so his poor feet & back don't hurt.

just_passing_reddit169 karma

What were the dishes you made that helped you win?

eatsnow458 karma

I think my entree dish was the strongest. I nearly got chopped on the appetizer round after dropping a soft shell crab on the floor, but my entree was strong. We had smoked pork shanks, a chocolate crepe cake, chocolate whisky, and purple spinach. I basically made a 30-minute mole, and the flavor was outstanding. I've since recreated it, because it was worth making again...without the insanity.

Hazelstone3794 karma

Would you share your mole recipe?

eatsnow74 karma

Oh man, I'd have to sit down and rack my brain to get it right again, because I was dumping so many random spices in there that I couldn't keep track.

The general gist of it: ketchup, mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, a handful of chocolate cake, cocoa nibs, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin...that's where I start to blank.

To call it a mole is pretty insulting to mole, but it tasted much more like mole than bbq sauce.

HookersForDahl2017169 karma

Why does every contestant on that show have some sob story?

eatsnow494 karma

1) Because everyone has a story.

2) Because #ratings.

They get loads of information out of you before filming, which includes the story of your life. Then, they pick one storyline, distill dozens of hours of footage into seconds-long soundbytes, and rinse and repeat for an hour. They could have turned me into seven different people based on all the info they had, and the sob-story they chose for me was a former perfectionist ballet dancer turned hard-on-herself chef. Why they chose that over everything else they had...I don't know.

duhdoydoy146 karma

Are you happy with the “person” they chose ?Which “you” do you wish they chose to showcase?

eatsnow57 karma

I'm grateful, actually. When it filmed, I was going through one of the most difficult periods of my life, like crying every day for months awfulness. I was terrified that I was going to have a breakdown on national television and that it was going to be exploited. I cried a lot on set, just from overwhelm. The producers, god bless them, did not use any of that footage.

I think it helped that my strategy for breaking the tension was humor. I was funny with the judges and gave them a lot of sound bytes, which is much more usable TV than blubbering.

Deplete1146 karma

What kind of cheffing do you do now?

eatsnow463 karma

I don't work in the restaurant industry anymore. I owned a bakery in New York and sold it in 2017. Since then, I've transitioned into writing and do recipe development/food photography to pay the bills. It's a nice way to keep cooking without the pressure of Yelp.

bungmunch141 karma

I'd love to hear about your experiences with Yelp tbh

eatsnow880 karma

Yelp can die in a fire along with any other review site that can make or break a business based on the opinion of entitled assholes with a complaining problem and twitchy thumbs. But then again, that's the internet in a nutshell.

As far as the company goes...let's just say I hung up on a lot of representatives over the years.

jongbag159 karma

I've heard them accused of extorting business with bad reviews before. Did you experience anything like that?

eatsnow304 karma

I can't remember the exact language their people used, but that was the gist.

crode080136 karma

Do they boil the water and have the oven on etc before you start? People always seem to be ready to throw things in the water or in the oven.

eatsnow54 karma

Water is boiling and the ovens are preheated. You also go through and test each burner right before each segment to make sure everything is in working order.

wormbreath124 karma

Do they completely clean the kitchen re stock between rounds? When do you do the confession/interview/voiceover(I don’t know what to call it) part?

eatsnow205 karma

They completely clean the kitchen in between rounds and re-stock most of the kitchen. There were a handful of items that I remember they told us wouldn't be restocked, like the single loaf of bread, but most of it was refilled.

The confession/talking heads part takes place after you either get chopped or win. Pasted from an earlier comment: The winner has the longest day because all the talking head segments are filmed after each contestant is done filming. You have to go over the whole day, in the present tense like you're narrating what happened. So if you just got chopped, you still have to sit there and re-live whatever you just screwed up. And the longer you're on the show, the more footage there is to go over, so the longer the interview is.

DeliciousBreak116 karma

Were you compensated for appearing? Did this have an effect on your bakery (before or during selling)?

eatsnow253 karma

There is no compensation for appearing. Only the winner is compensated.

Web traffic definitely shot up when Chopped aired, but actual customer increase was hard to measure. Ultimately, the effect was more positive for me personally than it was the business. The business got ~30 seconds of airtime. I got an hour.

mermaidchair107 karma

Who were the judges on your episode? Favorite judge? Most intimidating judge?

eatsnow286 karma

Zac Young, Maneet Chauhan, and the owner of Voseges' chocolate who's name I'm too tired to remember or Google. Judging, on the whole, was harsh but Zac had a sense of humor that I appreciated. Maneet was tough, but damn was I glad that I did not get Alex Guarnaschelli. She's a damn bulldog.

Gerbille92 karma

How long did you have to wait between rounds?

eatsnow151 karma

Deliberation wasn't too long, like maybe 20 minutes. In between rounds was much longer, like hours. In total there was 80 minutes of competition, and ~4 hours of judging, yet my day was nearly 15 hours long.

Rickyisnotcool86 karma

What goes on behind the scenes that the audience may not know? Do they give you time after the clock runs out?

eatsnow357 karma

No extra time! The clock is the clock.

As far as things viewers don't know, stove placement, which I’m assuming is random, has its surprising advantages and disadvantages. The closer you are to the pantry, the easier it is to ping pong back and forth as needed without having to play kitchen Frogger. I was at the end, the farthest from the judges but the closest to the pantry. If I needed to head to the fridge, I just went to the fridge. It took five seconds. If another contestant needed to head to the fridge, they had to go through the other stations to get there, and the whole trip could eat up thirty seconds or more. But, the closest person to the pantry (me) can’t hear Ted and the judges, which can be a huge advantage because the judges tend to mention tips and pitfalls of mystery ingredients or make suggestions on how something should be prepared. So if you have no idea how to prepare an ingredient, the person closest to the judges can just listen in and get tips.

There's also a big whiteboard with all the contestant's last names written in dry erase marker. Each time a chef gets chopped, they put a big dramatic X through it.

Because of Union breaks, the guy who got chopped in the entree round had to sit around and wait for the teamsters to eat lunch before he could go do his final interview. So the poor guy just got his ass handed to him, and then he has to sit for an hour with the two people who beat him before he gets to go sit in a long interview and re-live his bad day.

The catering is terrible.

According to the PA who babysat us in the sequester room (where you sit and wait for the judges to deliberate, on camera, of course) lots of contestants are douche canoes. Luckily, everyone I was with was extremely nice.

You don't get to keep the jacket.

CapWild81 karma

How did you become a contestant?

eatsnow164 karma

I randomly met someone from casting at a party in New York, and she encouraged me to apply. I didn't think I had a shot in hell at being chosen.

ScoobyMaroon137 karma

They're in season 32+. I'd wager every one is getting chosen.

E: holy shit they're on season 45. I'm not a chef and I haven't applied but I'll be expecting my call any day now. They're probably running out of people.

eatsnow140 karma

They do 3-4 "seasons" a year. I don't think they're in any danger of running out of people. It's the most popular show on FN of all time, by an order of magnitude. Post Chopped, I worked with a production company trying to produce a new show for FN that had the Chopped magic. Everyone is trying to strike gold twice.

ChristianRuma75 karma

What is your favorite color?

eatsnow120 karma


YellowFat57 karma

What’s it like to see yourself on tv? Are you proud or so you cringe? Was the final product what you expected?

eatsnow107 karma

i'd spent some time on TV before, so it wasn't cringey in that sense since i was used to seeing my face. re-watching the mistakes though...ohhhh that still hurts.

ThePlebble19 karma

Is your username “eat snow” or “eats now”?

eatsnow19 karma

Either way, it's a winner.

EatingKidsDaily12 karma

Hey Brooke! Congrats on chopped! I graduated with you back at RHS (still remember Chaucer?) I've heard that the baking discipline is so fundamentally different than other types of cooking it can be hard to move back and forth. How do you think your time as a baker has impacted your perspective and skill with traditional cooking? Do you still do ballet at all?

eatsnow5 karma

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote....

I have to kind of slip back and forth into different modes with baking and cooking. If i'm baking or developing recipes (everything is down to the gram when I develop), I find that I "forget" how to improvise. And then when i'm improvising for a while, I forget how to measure. The thing I've gained most from baking is how to combine flavors because desserts really lend themselves to savory flavor profiles. To me, there's a lot of freedom there that I don't necessarily get with savory cooking.

I take a ballet class now and again, but nothing serious. Too old.

starryrz9 karma

How is it embarrassing winning Chopped? Chopped seems like it isn't the easiest show to win from a viewer's perspective. Mystery Baskets each round can contain very difficult ingredients to work with. You could be given Jello for the appetizer round, and corn on the cob for the dessert round. Your basket from the image you posted seems like 1 of the easier baskets I have seen to work with. Also, was there anything you think you did better than the other contestants that got you the win?

eatsnow84 karma

I don't/didn't find winning to be embarrassing, but I'm not exactly proud of the food I created. It tasted all right but looked a hot mess, and I made a lot of dumbass mistakes that I wouldn't have made under normal circumstances.

The thing about Chopped, I think, is that the best chef doesn't necessarily win. In fact, I think years of experience in high-end restaurants is actually a hindrance because typically those cooks are used to taking their time and working within strict parameters. There's not actually a lot of creativity in day-to-day kitchen life. You're essentially a robot replicating the same handful of dishes, sometimes hundreds of times a day. You don't get to throw corn into the dessert just because you feel like it. I think that's why I did so well, even though my background was the least traditional. I didn't have years of line cook programming and timing built into my process, so I didn't over complicate things by trying to get fancy. Also, because I owned a bakery that leaned on unexpected flavor combinations, I was used to working with seemingly mismatched ingredients, which is helpful when white chocolate caviar shows up in the appetizer round.

ravenpotter38 karma

What is the most exotic food you have ever tried?

eatsnow10 karma

A bee egg omelette. Can't say I'd do it again.

InsertOriginalUN7 karma

How much of it is fake?

eatsnow8 karma

Only the walls. Bricks pop out here and there so cameras can poke through.

PavlovsGreyhound5 karma

My wife is a gifted Chef. What would the best gift in the world be for her? Thank you for any help/advice you can offer (you guys are hard to shop for).

eatsnow16 karma

If she works as a chef and she's anything like me, then you cooking her dinner would be the best gift! When you cook for others all the time, it's nice to have someone cook for you.

If she's not a professional and just loves to cook, get her knives professionally sharpened for her. It makes a huge difference, and most home cooks knives are nowhere near as sharp as they need to be.

Freemontst5 karma

Did you have a sense that they wanted a particular contestant to win?

eatsnow5 karma

No, it seemed honest the whole way through. Doug is/was also the nicest guy in the world, so if I was going to lose to someone, I would have been honored to lose to him.

dreadbeard-28 karma

Who compiled Webster’s Dictionary?

eatsnow39 karma

Who is Webster for $500, Alex.