The Zakarians Interview Chopped's Ted Allen

The Zakarians Interview Chopped's Ted Allen
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The Zakarians Interview Chopped's Ted Allen

Read on for the Zakarians exclusive interview with Ted Allen.

Image Credit: Rommel Demano via Getty Images Entertainment

Starting Out

Margaret Zakarian: Ted, how did you get started with food? You are quite the expert but truly, I missed your bio on how it all started.

Ted Allen: I've always liked to cook since childhood, and my friends and I have cooked together since our twenties. But it wasn't until I became an editor at Chicago magazine that I was exposed to more serious and creative cooking at great restaurants. I remember the first time I was served a dessert sauternes with a chocolate cake, at The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton under chef Sarah Stegne and it was a real revelation.

Image Credit: John Lamparski via WireImage

Before Queer Eye

MZ: And had you done TV before Queer Eye?

TA: Just a few appearances on the news to promote the magazine. Other than that, I'd never even been in a school play.

Image Credit: Bravo via NBC Universal

On Bravo

Geoffrey Zakarian: Ted, I never kicked off Bravo. Literally, original reality style show. Were you before the Real World?

TA: The Real World had us beat by a few years. But yes, we were the first big success on Bravo, and they were brave to pick us up and to put so much promotional muscle behind us. We did some really high-quality makeovers—and we won an Emmy!

Image Credit: D Dipasupil via Film Magic

Still Friends With Queer Eye Cast

GZ: Well, thank you for paving the way. There is a whole slew of shows that owe thanks to that one. Are you still tight with your cast mates from Queer Eye? We all have grown to be such a family on Chopped, it would be hard to imagine not seeing you and hanging around all the time.

TA: We are all still great friends, always will be, and the rowdy humor flows instantly whenever we get together. It's a lot like the family feeling we have with our Chopped team—which I dearly love, and I know you do, too—only with a slightly different spin on the off-color jokes.

Image Credit: Rommel Demano via Getty Images Entertainment

Queer Eye

MZ: It is quite the raucous group when you all get together. I can't imagine how entertaining a full day on set must be.

TA: Actually, I think you could—it's a lot like our rowdier days on-set at Chopped. One difference: On Chopped, we are rarely handcuffing one another or wrapping duct tape around someone's head, a regular motif on Queer Eye.

Image Credit: Bravo via NBC Universal

Cooking Slowly

MZ: I hear your cast mates poke fun that you like to take your time when cooking at home. A new type of slow cooking. Personally, would Chopped be your worst nightmare?

TA: Ha—I don't have to worry about it being a nightmare, because I'm never going to agree to do it! Let's remember, I did not go to culinary school, and I have never banged out 300 covers a night in a restaurant. I'm a home cook. I also genuinely prefer slow-food techniques: roasting, braising, smoking. I'm pouring a glass of wine, cranking the stereo, and relaxing. Chefs like Murphy, even when he's cooking at home, he cooks with urgency, like there's an angry mob waiting for grub out in the dining room. That's not me—my attitude is, I'm having fun, and you'll eat when it's good and ready.

MZ: Love it. Good outlook. That's what I am going to start telling GZ: "You'll get it when is ready!"

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GZ: Do you ever have dreams that you are actually a contestant and Marc Murphy is telling you that you have been Chopped because your dish just didn't make it to the plate? Sometimes I have that dream...oh wait, I did compete on Chopped.

TA: Yeah, well, you always get it on the plate, Iron Chef—and it's always spectacular! I do have work dreams, but they're much more boring and weird. I dreamed I demanded that producers remove one of the plate styles from the pantry because I hated it. Obviously, at that point, I really needed a vacation.

Image Credit: Rommel Demano via Getty Images Entertainment

Favorite Celebs

MZ: Those new webisodes on where the judges cook one course together are pretty cool, and I like the new celeb episodes. Who has been the biggest surprise in the kitchen on one of those?

TA: I would say we've had many, many excellent surprises! Look at the fiery competitive spirit and strong cooking we got from Danica Patrick, Terri Hatcher and Joey Fatone! Those folks were not kidding around!

Image Credit: Rommel Demano via Getty Images Entertainment

Behind The Scenes

MZ: Ok guys, can you share some behind the scenes stories for all of us that aren't on set every day?

TA: It's always fun when Aaron sits in the middle with Amanda and Maneet on either side—he always does something that gets him in trouble with those two, and they punch him, simultaneously, on both arms, for a double Charley horse. Don't know why that makes me so happy. As you know, chefs are a rowdy bunch who love to laugh, and we laugh for most of the day. Which is a good thing, when your day is almost 12 hours long.

Image Credit: Cindy Ord via Getty Images Entertainment

Ideal Celebrity Judge

MZ: And if you could pick one renowned chef or personality living or dead, to be on the judges panel with you, who would you pick?

TA: Julia Child! Although I think she'd judge one show and never come back.

Image Credit: Boston Globe/Contributor via Getty Images

Charity Work

GZ: Ted, you are so generous with your time and do some great charity work. Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

TA: Right now, along with chefs Zakarian, Freitag and Murphy, I'm representing Taste of the NFL, a giant hunger-relief fundraiser that happens each year in the city hosting the Super Bowl. More than 3,000 people attend, and millions get raised, to benefit both the home city and all the cities with NFL teams. The Taste is happening in my good old Brooklyn this year!

Image Credit: Getty Images

Recipes or Freestyle...

TA: Freestyle, driven by what's good at the market.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Vodka or Gin...

TA: Gin all the way.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Beach or Mountains

TA: In Rio, you get both!

Image Credit: Getty Images

Teflon or Not:

TA: Never...Creepy and unnecessary.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Donuts or Croissants...

TA: Croissants.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Bike or Taxi...

TA: Subway!

Image Credit: Getty Images

Favorite meal of the day..

TA: Dinner.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Most listened to song...

TA: According to iTunes, it's "Sing Me Spanish Techno" by The New Pornographers.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Last book you claimed you read...

TA: Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold.

Image Credit: Modernist Cuisine

Last book you actually read...

TA: Just Kids by Patti Smith.

Image Credit: Harper Collins

Oldest cookbook on the shelf...

TA: The Sunset (magazine) Barbecue Book, 1938. And The Esquire Cookbook, 1945.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Newest Cookbook on the Shelf...

TA: The Scarpetta Cookbook, by Scott Conant.

Image Credit: Scott Conant

Most memorable meal within the last year...

TA: The Thanksgiving dinner we just cooked! I dry-brined the turkey and my hubby, Barry Rice, made a coconut cake. Amazing.

Image Credit: Getty Images


As a host of Chopped, a former judge on Top Chef and a philanthropist, Ted Allen is a busy guy!

Lucky for us, Allen sat down with our alumni Guest Editors, Geoffrey and Margaret Zakarian, to discuss all things food, Chopped and charity.

Check out the slideshow above to learn more about Ted Allen.

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