Alex Guarnaschelli Reveals The Biggest Mistake A Contestant Can Make On Chopped - Exclusive

Cooking competition shows like Chopped are messy, complicated, and unpredictable, according to celebrity chef and cookbook author Alex Guarnaschelli. During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Guarnaschelli, who's been a regular judge on the Food Network show since 2009 (via Food Network), told us that at least when it comes to Chopped, the viewer is being shown "pretty much everything." It happens to be one of the reasons Chopped resonates so much with the viewers at home. "It's real," she assured us. Not only is all that realness great from the viewer's perspective, but it also raises the stakes for competitors who go into the show knowing their most embarrassing goofs probably won't end up on the cutting room floor.

How individual contestants handle those high-pressure stakes can make or break their chances of winning at cooking competitions. Although the audition process for Chopped is rigorous, the truth is that not all cooking show competitors are prepared to cook under that kind of "pressure," as Guarnaschelli put it. 

So what does it take to succeed at cooking competitively while being watched by other high-ranking chefs, an entire production crew, and ultimately, every Chopped fan with a television? According to Alex Guarnaeschelli, it comes down to Chopped contestants avoiding one thing.

What Chopped contestants need for the competition

While Chopped has been on TV for over a decade, there are some competitor mistakes Alex Guarnaschelli sees over and over again, competitor to competitor, season to season. "Mostly I would just say it's hard when you watch someone and they don't have confidence in themselves," she shared. Presumably, any chef who makes it through the Chopped audition process is bringing the requisite culinary skills, talent, and a strong sense of self. However, as much as "you want everybody to be confident and enjoy the process of competing," Guarnaschelli told Mashed, "that's not possible. It's a wish, but it's not always possible. You know what I mean?"

How does a lack of confidence come out on the set of Chopped? "I think, mostly, they question themselves," Guarnaschelli explained. "They question their choices or they forget one of the ingredients that they're supposed to use or the time gets away from them. I think a lot of those different things." 

Not that chef Alex can't sympathize. She's lost a cooking competition or two and recognizes that in the world of cooking competition shows, "It varies from person to person and ingredient to ingredient. It's always a new day [...] It's like trying to predict what the ocean's going to do."

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 Chef Alex has been collaborating with, on their website.