Maneet Chauhan Spilled The Tea On The Most Bizarre Chopped Baskets - Exclusive Interview

Food Network stans know of Maneet Chauhan. The "Chopped" judge specializes in Indian American cuisine, is a Food Network "Tournament of Champions” Season 2 champion, and owns four restaurants across the United States. Recently, Mashed had the opportunity to chat with Chauhan at the Sun Wine & Food Fest, hosted by Mohegan Sun, about her television appearances and how she achieved her successful career.

In the exclusive interview, the Food Network star revealed what it was like to shoot a new episode of "Supermarket Stakeout," her thoughts on the most underrated Indian foods in North America, and her current go-to dinner dish. Chauhan also named the "Chopped" wild card ingredients that were the most difficult (or unusual) to work with on the series. Let's just say, "rooster testicle soup" is not a phrase we will ever forget. Chauhan even learned a thing or two from the contestants themselves — never underestimate the power of a microwave!

Chopped wild card ingredients are indeed wild

As [you're] a longtime judge on "Chopped," my first question is "Chopped" related. [Have] there been any wild card ingredients that stand out in your mind as the most difficult [for] the contestants to work with?

Absolutely. I'll also tell you the ones which I do not want to ever have again. Balut is a really difficult ingredient. Recently, we did rooster testicle soup. And pig uterus. Those definitely stand out in my mind.

I don't even have a response to that.

Yes, exactly. I wish I did, but you have to do what you have to do.

"Chopped" completed 54 seasons of the show. Is there a kitchen hack or culinary tip that you've learned from contestants on the show that you still use today?

From the contestants — microwave. As chefs, you do not give as much credence to the importance of the microwave, but you can use the microwave for a lot of things. I love it. Contestants have used it to throw an entire button of squash in it, or a kombucha squash, and what would take hours [they do] in minutes. That is one of the biggest things that I've learned.

Maneet Chauhan on Supermarket Stakeout

You recently posted that you were shooting "Supermarket Stakeout" as well. What was that experience like?

Oh my god, crazy. I was cooking for it. It was the first time they had celebrity chefs cook for it. It's insane. You're cooking in a parking lot, and then you've got to go and haggle with the customers who are coming out to buy stuff from them.

What were you cooking? Could you recall that?

At the present moment, I can't tell you what I was cooking, but we were told the first round had a certain theme, the second round had a certain theme, [and the] third round had a certain theme. So that's how we cooked.

You've been on Food Network for quite some time now. Is there one celebrity chef that you particularly enjoy working with?

I enjoy working with everyone because we have that relationship. Amanda or Mark or Robert — all of us have become a family, and it's crazy. Last night, we all went out for dinner. I'm still laughing about it right now because it is like meeting your family over Thanksgiving, and you're pulling each other's leg and it feels really good.

That's why everyone loves you guys so much. It carries through [to] the show — your personality and how well you guys get along.

We do, knock on wood. Yes.

Indian street food needs more attention

Is there one chef that has inspired you throughout your successful career?

I'm the kind of person who has drawn inspiration from each and every person who I come across. There'll be something that I learn from you. There'll be something that I learn from your mom. That is how you grow as an individual. Each and every chef ... And I don't think that it needs to be an accomplished chef for you to learn anything from [them]. I get inspiration from my colleagues who are washing dishes to prep. If I close my mind to learning things from people who I don't think have anything to offer, then shame on me because I am losing out on something. You just take the time to have a conversation with them.

[Based on] your knowledge of Indian cuisine, what do you think is the most underrated Indian food or meal, and why?

[With] Indian food in America, we've not even scratched the surface because Indian food is so vast. Each and every region has a completely different cuisine of its own. [When] we think of Indian cuisine, we think of chicken tikka masala, we think of naan, we think of dal makhani. That is not even 0.001% of what Indian cuisine is all about. I do think that the street foods of India, or chaat — [which is the name of] the book that I have written — [are] definitely underrepresented because not many people get to experience [them].

I also think that a lot of regional Indian cuisine, like from Eastern India [and] regions in Southern India ... India has this incredible Goan cuisine, [which] is influenced by Portuguese [cuisine]; or poulet, influenced by French [cuisine]; or Tangra, influenced by Chinese [cuisine]. All of that is there, but nobody knows about it. I think it'll take us a long time and a lot more Indian chefs to get that to the forefront.

What is your go-to dinner dish that you've been cooking lately?

It's usually something really simple, like dal chaat, which is rice and lentil soup. That's it. It's simple, it's quick to make, and that's the chicken soup for my soul.

What do you have in store for 2023? Any exciting projects you can think of?

There is an exciting project. I can't talk about it because I have signed too many dotted lines, but you will hear about it sooner [rather] than later.

The annual Sun Wine & Food Fest is one of the largest and most popular wine festivals in the northeastern U.S., treating guests to a vast selection of wines and delicious food pairings. Keep up with Maneet Chauhan's current projects on her Instagram page.

This interview has been edited for clarity.