While watching Chopped this week, I noticed something very odd about the current state of food television. Given the popularity of Top Chef on Bravo, Food Network has been struggling and doing everything they can to steal back some of the market share. I mean, Chopped is little more than a crazy quickfire challenge compressed into one episode.
Food Network even now has shows based on the fan favorite restaurant wars, and Cupcake Wars fills me with near infinite rage because I hate how popular the cupcake bubble has become. That’s a bubble that’s going to burst. Just like the alpaca bubble.
But the big problem is just how weird the alliances have become. On one side, you’ve got the Iron Grill Lord Bobby Flay with his assorted high priestesses and archchefs like Rachel Ray, Giada de Laurentiis and the Mistress of Butter herself, Paula Dean along with his army of Iron Chefs. But the other side is a different set of players lead by Tom Coliccio and the Queen of Curry, Padma Lakshmi with the lovely Gail Simmons. But on occasion, someone deflects from one side. One such person is Ted Allen. Or some simulacrum who claims to be Ted Allen.
Originally one of the Queer Eye before becoming a member of the elite pantheon that judged Top Chef, Ted Allen deflected to the Food Network after dabbling in the Iron Chef Arena. He was clearly offered something great: his own show. But at what cost?
If my experience of watching almost every episode of Chopped is any indication, Ted Allen is a prisoner of the Food Network, forced to perform for their ruler, Iron Grill Lord Flay. Here is a man who, while he has his own show, never gets to eat the food. He never utters criticism. He just goes through the same motions each and every episode in the same order – the exact same order! His quips are just simple repeats and regurgitations. Like a twisted mannequin that is unable to control its own fate, Ted Allen must do this dance week after week and yet no one comes to save him.
Or perhaps someone has this week as it appears Coliccio has sent his newest apprentice, Marcus Samuelsson into the Chopped Realm. After appearing as a guest judge on Top Chef DC last week, he is now at the Chopped Table. I assume as a spy, because anyone who willing gets that close to Alex Guarnaschelli is just asking to have their soul sucked out.
So will Samuelsson save Ted Allen from the clutch of the Iron Chef realm or will he fall victim to Lord Flay’s throwdown? Or has another chef been drawn into Flay’s fold? One way or another, someone is either getting chopped or packing their knives to go home.