Alex Guarnaschelli Reveals The Most Unbelievable Thing That Happened On Chopped - Exclusive

As a regular judge on Chopped over the last decade, chef Alex Guarnaschelli knows what really goes on behind the scenes of a high-energy cooking competition (via Food Network). When Mashed sat down with Guarnaschelli for an exclusive interview, one of the first things we were desperate to find out was what the viewers at home don't get to see. So we asked the perennial Food Network star and cookbook author about the absolute wildest thing that has ever happened on Chopped (as opposed to the truly awkward moments we'll never forget).

"Outtakes?" Guarnaschelli wondered aloud, asking if that's what we meant. That's because, according to chef Alex, Chopped audiences are allowed to see almost everything that happens on set — and that's for a good reason. As Guarnaschelli pointed out, "I think part of the reason why these competitions resonate so much with people is because the viewer gets to see pretty much everything that happens." 

With 49 seasons and 621 episodes, you'd think there couldn't possibly be any new surprises on Chopped (via IMDb). "Every time I go on set, I say to myself — 'What more can happen here?'" Guarnaschelli said. "Have we not seen it all? Someone cuts their finger, someone drops their food on the floor, someone forgets half the ingredients."

Guarnaschelli did, nevertheless, recall a day of shooting on the Chopped set when, apparently, something absolutely unpredictable happened.

On Chopped, Guarnaschelli is ready for the unexpected

Guarnaschelli explained that there was one day when she walked on set and actually said "What's left to see?" to one of Chopped's producers, and the producer responded, "I know, right? What's left?"

Here's what: Just 20 minutes later, one of the contestants was cooking and had a towel on the side of the stove. Guarneschelli continued: "A tiny edge of it catches fire a little bit, which happens. It's near the burner or whatever and you're not aware. And they threw it in the garbage, like, 'Well, let me get it out of the way,' and I swear to god, two minutes later, the whole garbage can puffed in a flame of smoke. It honestly looked like we rigged it. It was so unbelievable. The garbage just erupted in flames."

"And I kind of remember just kind of slow motion turning my head and looking over at that producer and the producer slow motion looks over at me and she's like, 'It's never going to end.'" Guarnaschelli said. "I think that really resonates with people because it's real."

You can see more of Guarnaschelli on Food Network's Supermarket Stakeout and Chopped, and you can learn about ZENB, the Japanese-inspired plant-based food brand that she's been collaborating with.