How Chopped Baskets Are Really Chosen, According To Alex Guarnachelli

"Chopped" is one of the most ubiquitous cooking shows in the history of the Food Network, and with a current run of 45 seasons, it's easy to see why the TV show has such a huge following. One of the first culinary competition shows, "Chopped" pits four talented chefs against each other in a real-time cooking competition, using three or four ingredients from a "mystery basket" to create a dish to wow a panel of judges of culinary experts. According to E!, the original idea for the show was to have chefs compete to win the opportunity to cater a fancy dinner party (hosted by a mystery mogul and led by a stuffy butler) where the losing chef's dish would be fed to the mogul's dog, a Chihuahua named Pico. Thankfully, some critical changes were made to the premise, and we have the "Chopped" we love today, sans Chihuahua.

The best part of any episode of "Chopped" is watching in suspense as the chefs open the mystery basket of ingredients. And of course, the ensuing chaos as each chef scrambles to make something delicious out of things like Durian, a 9-pound gummy skull, and baby food, to name a few of fan-favorite "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnachelli's most memorable ingredients (via People). But how do these baskets come together, and who is the mastermind behind all these zany combinations?

The baskets are picked by a team

In a Twitter post, a fan of the show asked Alex Guarnachelli what goes into the baskets and if there's a particular recipe or preparation in mind that is ultimately rewarded during assembly. Guarnachelli gave an inside peek behind the scenes saying, "The baskets [are] developed /tested by a team of experts. They come up with multiple options to make sure the baskets are manageable within the time. There are no extra points and no correct answer, per se. It's really about taste, presentation creativity interpreted by each chef."

The Food Network dove a little deeper in an interview with the network's Executive Food Chef Rob Bleifer, who revealed the selection of ingredients for the mystery baskets is a collaborative effort with hit show's culinary producer, Sara Hormi, where they sometimes work on baskets together but always serve as checks and balances for each other. The baskets are put together with specific themes in mind for special episodes. However, others are more random but still keep in mind flavor combinations. Bleifer and Hormi are mindful of ingredients that have already been used and, of course, that one ingredient that brings the shock value, such as the classic — a whole canned chicken.