Q&A with Ted Allen: Get to Know the Chopped Host

By

You’ve seen him host every single episode of Chopped and Chopped Junior, and he’s even flexed his cooking chops in a few After Hours appearances alongside the Chopped judges, but there’s a lot you don’t know about Ted Allen. Here’s your chance to get to know the man who unceremoniously sends competitors to the chopping block.

Before hosting Chopped, Ted Allen served as a regular judge on Iron Chef America. He’s won an Emmy Award for his work on Bravo’s Queer Eye as the food and wine specialist. As the host of Chopped, he’s won the James Beard Foundation Award for outstanding host. He’s written two cookbooks and has contributed to Esquire magazine (for which he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award), Bon Appétit and Food Network Magazine.

But did you know there’s almost no food Ted won’t try, and that cheese is his absolute favorite? He’s also secretly wished he could be the lead singer of a rock band. Find out which one, and get more interesting tidbits about this multifaceted host with the most.

Is there one ingredient that you hate cooking with?

I mean, not really. You know, there are some things I choose less often to buy. I mean, I’m not interested in eating beef liver. If somebody really talented cooked it, I would definitely eat it. … One of the really nice trends in food these days is that more people are understanding the idea of nose-to-tail cooking and using the whole animal and respecting this animal that gave its life so that we could have, you know, luxury food, and if you know what you’re doing there’s probably a good way to cook virtually everything, in a pig. I’m not an expert; I mean I don’t get by on a lot of chitlins, but I’ll try almost anything. I’m very open to food now. I’ve been for a long time.

What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

No, there isn’t really something that I wouldn’t eat. I’m not a food snob, but I do find … though, the more time that goes by, if something isn’t good, if the cooking isn’t good, then I just take a few bites and I stop. And if something is good, I’ll stuff my face. I don’t really eat a giant volume of food, unless something’s really good.

What was your most-memorable meal? What? Where? Who? Details, please.

I’ve got too many to count to name one. I mean, I’ve had fancy meals, and I’ve had simple meals that were just nothing but really great cheese and a really beautiful piece of bread.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food?

This may be one of my moral failings, but I don’t feel guilty about much. I don’t have much time to worry about feeling guilty. I’m not a giant overeater. … I had a birthday recently that produced an enormous amount of cheese in my house, and for two days … I had nothing but cheese and crackers for lunch. So good. I don’t feel guilty about food. I don’t need to. You know what? I eat, I try to eat good-quality food, in moderation and with great variety. I don’t believe in any diets or any fads, nutrition fads. I try to eat food that’s real, and I take everything in moderation, including moderation, and I don’t know who said that first, but I’m going to appropriate that, because I believe that. That might go on my tombstone.

Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?

I have a very good Indian restaurant in my neighborhood, and while I do some cooking from my Indian cookbooks and I love those flavors, I usually do outsource Indian. I usually outsource sushi, although I have rolled some sushi in my time. I’ve thrown sushi parties where friends make rolled sushi together.

What kitchen tool can you not live without?

Only recently in life did I discover the majesty of the fish spatula, which is that slotted spatula with the angled, slightly curved and angled edge. … It’s great for fish, of course, but it’s also [useful], if you think about, when you need to get that first brownie out of the pan, or that first slab of lasagna out of the pan, a fish spatula does it perfectly.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what career would you have liked to have tried?

When I was growing up, I wanted to be the lead singer of Aerosmith — and I still do, actually, but it’s not likely to happen. If I could trade careers with anybody right now, I’d like to trade my career with Ira Glass, if he would be so kind. His radio programing, his journalism is so quirky and smart and timed and generous and probing and open and just the best.

What’s your favorite “food city”?

Too many to count, and another great trend, and I don’t talk about trends much. … The truth is I had an astonishingly great meal in Columbus, Ohio, a month ago, the city of my birth. A city that you would not [have called] a food city 10 years ago.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Cheese. Absolutely.

What’s your last-supper menu?

Cheese … . Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and champagne. And some vegetables. Maybe a nice salad with a nice sharp mustard vinaigrette on it. That would be good.

Who’s your favorite person to cook with?

Almost anybody who’s good. It’s fun to cook with friends. I mean, all my friends cook. Usually we kind of take turns, so they’re cooking for me or I’m cooking for them.

Rapid fire: Think fast!

Ketchup or mustard? Mustard

Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla, when it comes to ice cream

Coffee or tea? Coffee, but I like tea, too

Burger or hot dog? Burger, but I like a hot dog, too

Cream cheese or butter? Butter

Soda or water? These days, water

Get to Know the Chopped Judges:

Amanda Freitag

Geoffrey Zakarian

Alex Guarnaschelli

Aaron Sanchez

Chris Santos

Maneet Chauhan

Marc Murphy

Marcus Samuelsson

Scott Conant