Why Chris Santos Loves Being A Chopped Judge

If Chris Santos is passionate about something, he'll learn about it. The chef and "Chopped" judge is a lifelong music fan who launched his own record label in 2016. And if he weren't a chef, he'd compete in professional boxing, which he says he still hasn't entirely ruled out. As he told Decibel Magazine, "all combined, I have like six different businesses, the restaurant business being just one of them."

Santos even considers himself self-taught in his culinary career. Although he graduated from Johnson & Wales University's culinary school, he began working in restaurants at age 13 and learned about different cuisines by traveling around the world, per Food Network.

After evaluating more than 1,500 dishes for the hit Food Network show "Chopped" (via Insider), Santos' food expertise is vast. And despite the chicken feet dishes that are among the worst dishes Santos ever judged, the reasons he loves being a judge fit right in with his eclectic interests.

The show is about learning just as much as cooking

Chris Santos' varied interests and lifelong learning inform the reasons he loves working on "Chopped," which he recently discussed with Food Network. "I've done over a hundred episodes now, and I don't think there's been one day where I've ever gone in and I haven't learned something," he said. "I either learn something listening to my fellow judges talk about a dish or an ingredient, or I learn something from chefs in the way they make food."

Fellow "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli agrees. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, she said everybody on set is always learning from one another and — most importantly — about themselves. "If you're watching as a judge, you're learning about how other people think when they cook food. If you're competing, you're learning about yourself and what you can do under pressure," she said. Curious home viewers can also learn from "Chopped," thanks to host Ted Allen. In addition to discussing mystery basket ingredients with judges, Allen is famous for asking contestants detailed questions in the middle of hectic cooking rounds.