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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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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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My Life in Concerts, Part 3 of 3: Classical Geeks

Ewoks at Conseco!

That time Conseco Fieldhouse hosted grotesque samples of Ewok taxidermy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Over the past few days, live performances have been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

The next two concerts in my timeline shared quite a few traits. Both were at the same venue in downtown Indianapolis. My wife and son accompanied me for a change. Both featured large orchestras, multimedia displays, and original scores from entertainment media.

One of these presentations differed from all the other shows in this miniseries in a very noticeable way: we took photos!

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My Life in Concerts, Part 2 of 3: They Might Be Giants & Friends

2005-07-13 TMBG

They might be giants! They might be giants! They might be big! They might be lies! They might be big, big, fake, fake lies!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Over the past few days, live performances have been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

On with the chronological countdown!

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My Life at Concerts, Part 1 of 3: The First Four Shows

1992-07-22 GNR+Metallica!

You never forget your first, even if you walked out in disgust before it was over.

In my youth I was never the kind of music fan who attended a lot of concerts, frequented local scenes, had the money for tickets to arenas or stadiums, or had friends who invited me along to any of the above. My rock intake chiefly came via radio or physical media, very little in the way of firsthand experiences with a professional band standing and/or jumping around in front of me. As the years rolled on, isolated opportunities popped up here and there that got me out of the house and in the presence of live jamming. Eventually I learned the joys of an energetic crowd, an imperfect performance, and blessedly temporary tinnitus. It didn’t take long to learn that in-person rock acts were a vastly different experience from the three years I spent in junior high band playing bass clarinet.

I’ve been meaning for some time to compile those nights into a single chronological list for my own handy reference and sharing and whatnot. Over the past few days this has been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

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