We’ve never really pulled any punches about our obsession with shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and even to a lesser degree Hell’s Kitchen. And, since most of us here at Daily Fork spend more time than we should watching chefs cook their hearts out only to be picked apart by judges and unceremoniously sent packing, we’ve noticed a few trends that are typically a strong indicator a specific contestant is going to be the one who comes up short in any given challenge. Granted, these aren’t one-hundred percent reliable, but more often than not, these 6 signs are the kiss of death for a would-be contestant looking to impress the judges with a remarkable dish.
1) They Choose to Make a Dessert
Unless you’re a pastry chef or it is a dessert challenge, it’s best to steer clear of confections and baked goods. Sure, it’s easy to say things like “you have to take risks,” but if everyone else is playing it safe with food they know, trying to step outside your comfort zone and do something “bold” is a great way to end up falling flat on your face.
2) Attempting to Make Something That “Might Not Have Enough Time”
As soon as a contestant says something like “I’m really hoping this will be done in time,” you can just assume they’re going to be heading to the judges table with undercooked food and a sob story about being overly ambitious. Sometimes instead of cutting it close it might be better to just shy away from cooking styles that take exactly two and a half minutes longer than your allotted time for the challenge.
3) Thinking They’re Above the Required Ingredients
This is mainly regarding the contestants on Chopped, but once the interview shows a chef bitching about how a canned this-or-that is something they wouldn’t be caught dead using in their kitchen, you can usually bank on the fact that judges will ding them for either marginalizing the ingredient or failing to prepare it in a compelling way. Even if it’s not your favorite thing to work with, you’re being judged on what you do with it, not how you’d do in a completely different challenge.
4) Making Two Dishes When Only One is Required
Much like criticizing someone’s spelling, making two dishes when only one is expected is only okay if you’re absolutely positive there’s not any mistakes on your end. Even creating one great dish and one weaker one will leave the judges questioning your decision making ability. Just ask Ashley.
5) Trying to Work with an Ingredient They’ve Never Used Before
There’s a time for experimenting with new things, and it’s not on a TV show where there’s a hefty cash prize on the line. Much like trying to make a dessert just for the hell of it, opting to work with an untested ingredient seems to frequently result in a trial by fire that ends with the chef explaining their poor choice to a panel of baffled experts.
6) Arguing With the Judges About “Proper Cooking”
Whether you’re in agreement or not, the judges are sitting on the side of the table that matters. Once the judges have handed down their criticism, telling them they, “just don’t get it,” or angrily defending mistakes as being intentional only serves to piss off the panel that will eventually decide your fate. And, just to prove that they can, they’ll often send the chef packing.
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