What it’s like to compete on — and win—Food Network’s “Chopped”

Brooke Siem
12 min readSep 21, 2017

In the first 3 seconds of footage of me cooking in the Chopped kitchen (Season 32, Episode 6, “Chocolate Obsession”), I’m cursing like a drunk frat kid. I believe the actual words out of my mouth were, “I make god damned cupcakes for a living. This is fucking ridiculous.” TV magic edited it down to simply, “This is f****** ridiculous.”

It’s not a great look, but give me break. I had been up since 4:30am, there were 40 cameras in my face, and I was living my worst nightmare with a basketful of soft shelled crabs. I’d spent months preparing for Chopped, regularly convincing my friends to come over for a dinner party in which it was their job to scour the grocery store for four absurd ingredients so I could practice on the fly. During my practice runs, I made pasta out of marshmallows, yellow peppers, and Pirate’s Booty. I transformed crab cakes into crab fried rice with pickled strawberries. And Oreo fried chicken is a thing now, thanks to my fourth run through. Like many Chopped contestants, my goal wasn’t necessarily to win — I simply wanted to get through the first round without embarrassing myself in the process.

As it turns out, I didn’t reach my goals that day. I embarrassed the hell out of myself. And oh, spoiler alert: I won.

But back to that first basket. Over twenty minutes, I mutilated a basket of beautiful crabs, burned a pan full of chocolate olive oil, forgot every knife skill I’d ever learned, and after finally getting my shit together long enough to take a breath, I dropped one of my four panko and paprika crusted crabs on the Chopped floor.

Lightening speed came to a halt, and for a nano second, I considered picking up the crab. Not that I was going to serve it, though I did wonder if I was more likely to get chopped for Floor Crab Du Jour or for No Crab Du Jour. Mostly, I just wanted to get it out of the way so no one slipped on a rogue crab on the way to the pantry. Getting chopped seemed inevitable at this point, and I didn’t want to be responsible for a twisted ankle as well as culinary embarrassment. Especially because at this rate, I was going to be the one to slip on my crab and go down like a tree.

I reached to the floor to pick the poor thing up when I heard the executive producer bellow…

Brooke Siem