Chopped is everybody’s favorite cooking soap opera. We all live for the drama of seeing who will get sent home in tears, the disbelief when a professional chef makes an elementary mistake like serving raw onions to Scott Conant (although his explanation of why he hates them makes sense), the butterflies when we see Aaron Sanchez’s face, and the utter ecstasy when the arrogant contestant gets chopped in the first round. However, Chopped isn’t just a great show – it has taught me 5 important lessons that got me interested in food and encouraged me to cook more.
1. Mistakes happen
Professional chefs burn rice, overcook pasta, and put salt instead of sugar in their desserts. Because I was terrified of making mistakes, I refused to start cooking until my junior year of high school. Now, even though I still routinely over-bake brownies, undercook pasta, and have burned myself on oven racks more times than I can count, I cook often and I’m getting better at it. The most important thing to remember is that behind each video of perfectly made crepes, there are probably a few burnt ones in the trash.
2. Everybody’s life path is different
This applies to more than just cooking. Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do in life. Other people jump around from job to job until they find something meaningful. In the end, whether you’re able to pull off these Instagram-worthy Wonder Balls or you just made a batch of Betty Crocker cupcakes for your friends, you’re still making food that makes other people happy.
3. You can’t make everybody happy
Numerous times on Chopped, a contestant will be confident in their dish only to have it ripped apart by one of the judges. Even if you do everything perfectly, there will always be someone who will be unhappy with your cooking. While negative feedback can be helpful, it is best to simply accept that not everybody will like what you produce. Again, this is one of those lessons that applies to life in general. Focusing on the negative feedback can help you improve, but obsessing over it only discourages you from being better.
4. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore
Part of why I originally disliked the idea of being in the kitchen is because I come from a culture that believes a woman’s primary role is in the kitchen. That was not a role I wanted for myself, and I tried to avoid doing anything that would give my grandmother the idea that I was following her rules about what I was supposed to be. Chopped taught me that cooking can be wild, fun, and rebellious (and a little nerdy – like this Star Wars-themed breakfast).
5. Cooking is an art
The chefs on Chopped put a lot of effort into the presentation of their dishes, as well as the taste, which is something I didn’t understand at first. After all, the food just gets eaten anyway. However, I have come to realize that cooking is not just following steps in a recipe to create something that fills you up. Experimenting with new flavors and textures to create something beautiful is an art, and this art is not diminished by the fact that it is temporary.