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99 Ways to Get Chopped from “Chopped”: A Handy Tips-‘n’-Tricks Checklist

Chopped!

Who among us has never looked at a bag of Cheetos and thought, “I bet I could turn this into haute cuisine”?

For years my wife Anne and I have been addicted to the Food Network’s cooking-competition series Chopped, in which four chefs must outcook each other under strictly timed conditions using four specific ingredients. Inside every Chopped basket of goods lurks a surprising combination of the rare, the delicate, the expensive, the complicated, the whimsical, the outlandish, and/or the thoroughly disgusting. Every substance can be used, though not every substance is very good.

Food Network continues gifting us with new episodes every week hosted by the amazing colossal Ted Allen, who presides over this fast-paced showcase for chefs of every conceivable demographic from various American restaurants, caterers, bakeries, or other private businesses, each of whom keeps their eyes on the $10,000 prize to be had if they’re the last entrant remaining after three grueling courses of speed-heating, kitchen-racing, and power-serving.

After watching several dozen episodes, Anne and I began to notice recurring patterns and tried to capture those observations and our fandom back in 2014 with a previous MCC entry called “How Not to Get Chopped from ‘Chopped’: A Starter Guide“. I’ve been meaning to overhaul that entry for a while now that we’re four years and literally 200+ episodes later, which includes every episode of the kids-only spinoff Chopped Junior and a handful of episodes of Chopped Canada, which was an interesting effort with its own angle and demeanor but wasn’t quite the same thing. I’m ashamed to confess it was tough to watch for more than a few minutes before I started poking fun in a goofy faux-Fargo accent.

The following compilation is our revised armchair-chef advice for future would-be competitors on how not to do Chopped from where we sit. This list is doubtlessly far from complete, and we welcome any additions in the comments below, especially from those among you who can truly cook. Though neither of us is a trained gourmet by any stretch, we hope this helps someone out there anyway. If you raise a skeptical eyebrow at any of these, well…it’s positively flabbergasting how many of these downfalls we’ve seen happen in actual episodes at the hands of trained professionals who run fantastic eateries back home but who lose their poise in front of the cameras. Even the best can make mistakes or watch their plans spin out of control.

Enjoy! Learn! Win!

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Former Kickstarter Junkie VIII: The Final Reward

Fight for Space!

Me explaining to people why crowdfunding is no longer my thing.

Hi, My name is Randy. It’s been five years and two months since the last time I pledged money to a Kickstarter campaign. This week I achieved closure on that chapter in my hobbyist life at last.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: Oscars 2018

Jimmy Kimmel!

Tonight one random winner took home a statuette personally contaminated by the host himself!

The 90th Academy Awards kicked off Sunday night on ABC with a mildly amusing spoof of olde-tyme theatrical newsreels before returning host Jimmy Kimmel threw down an unprecedented gauntlet: winners were encouraged to speak on any topic they wanted to, no matter how political or incendiary, for as long as they wanted. This promise was eventually broken, much to the consternation of The Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale, who got orchestra’d out of his spotlight moment because everyone had assumed director Guillermo Del Toro should have the last word.

Also intermittently livening up the night was Kimmel’s chief running gag, a promise of a free jet ski to whoever had the shortest speech. Thus began a night of push and pull, of comparison and contrast, of #MeToo and #TimesUp and diversity abounding and white guys still winning lots of things but not all the things.

Kimmel’s contributions and interruptions were kept to a barer minimum than last year, setting aside one segment that once again indulged his addiction to practical jokes on ordinary people. Assorted parties dropped a few wisecracks at the expense of high-ranking politicians as well as accused sex offenders, but a surprising amount of the commentary was kept on the positive side — a celebration of artists and advancement instead of roasting the haters and attackers. In that sense, some speeches were more refreshing than others.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #13: Our Oscar Quest 2018 Finale

Get Out!

In some crowds, you got to always keep one eye open.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s more like a newsletter in which I’ve jotted down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: we prepare for Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony starring ABC’s Best Pal Jimmy Kimmel, the perfect representative for the Year of #MeToo on Bizarro World, with brief notes on our final Best Picture nominee (and one of the best), along with all the nominees I could catch in other categories before I ran out of time.

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MCC Home Video Scorecard #12: Year-End Title Dump, 2017 Edition

Bob Newby!

Bob Newby, worthiest descendant of the House of Gamgee.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: the recurring feature that’s me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched at home. In this batch: once again this ostensibly regular feature wound up saved for a rainy day, only to be held in reserve through any number of downpours and snowstorms. I’m already several viewings into a 2018 edition, which means it’s now or never for my 2017 catch-up. I’m a little annoyed at how much time I devoted to Netflix shows throughout the third and fourth quarters of the year, but if I’d watched a lot of movies instead, then this entry would be three times longer and take at least twice as long to write, thus making all the easier to procrastinate into 2019 and beyond. Or all the easier never to write. But I grow weary of finding reasons not to write. One of my many reasons for creating a blog nearly six years was to find reasons not never to write.

Hence: on with the writing! And the viewings! And the writing about the viewings! Double bonus points if I’m not the only one who reads what I write about what view!

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 5: Mr. Robertson’s Neighborhood

700 Club Ticket Stub!

Scrapbooked souvenirs are the best souvenirs.

One of MCC’s more enduring entries from the past two years has been that time we attended a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on our 2016 NYC vacation. That wasn’t our first time attending a live TV recording. That milestone was set nine years earlier, in a studio that met much the same criteria — admission was free but required tickets anyway; no photos were allowed during all the best parts of the experience; and the biggest name in the house was a famous figure in the American political arena who we were forbidden to approach, and who once announced a Presidential campaign but wasn’t taken seriously.

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