If you've ever watched Chopped, you know those judges mean business. They're accomplished chefs who devote their lives to food, carefully judging each dish placed before them on taste, creativity and presentation.
As a Chicago native and huge Chopped fan, I couldn't help but do some digging to find out where the food-savvy judges choose to eat while spending time in the Windy City.
1. Marc Murphy: The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company
This Chopped judge was born in Milan, Italy and has lived in various countries across Europe. Today, he is the busy executive chef of several restaurants in New York, but he is always down for a trip to Chicago to enjoy "one of the weirdest and tastiest things I've ever had."
Of course, he's talking about the pizza pot pie from The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company, created by the restaurant's owner in 1972. Hearty tomato sauce and fluffy crust are made from the restaurant's own super secret recipes and are finished off with a hefty topping of Wisconsin brick cheese. A half-pound pizza pie comes out to just $12.75.
2. Alex Guarnaschelli: Smoke Daddy BBQ
Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli's Chicago food of choice happens to be a heavenly breakfast indulgence. The executive chef of NYC's Butter restaurant is always down for a trip to one of Chicago's top barbecue restaurants, Smoke Daddy, for the Pulled Pork Benedict.
A classic Eggs Benedict is given some spice with the restaurant's famous smoked pork shoulder and rich chipotle Hollandaise sauce. But beware: Guarnaschelli warns, "You're going to need a nap—preferably in a hammock—and then you're going to go back and have more." An order of the Pulled Pork Benedict, which comes with a side of hash browns and fruit, will only set you back 12 bucks.
3. Aaron Sánchez: Carnitas Uruapan
The Chopped judge and chef/partner of Johnny Sánchez displays his expertise of Latin cuisine as the host of Cooking Channel’s Emmy-nominated Taco Trip. During an interview with The San Francisco Examiner, Sánchez declared his favorite taco spot of all time to be Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood's Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant, which was featured on the debut episode of the show.
The restaurant is dedicated to carnitas, or spiced pork cooked in its own fat. These tacos are so good that Sánchez says, "It made me realize how crappy my own are." Tacos here are $2.50 each—or order a pound of the acclaimed carnitas for $8.50, which will serve 2-3 people.
BONUS! Host Ted Allen: Ann Sather
Although he's not a judge, Chopped's host Ted Allen definitely has bona fide food creds. We love him for his foreboding tone and panic-inducing time check-ins. (Am I the only one whose heart starts racing when he yells, "30 SECONDS!" with that intense, nerve-wracking expression?!)But where does this 51-year-old NYC resident spend his dough while in Chicago? During his appearance on Food Network's series The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Allen said a hot cinnamon roll from Ann Sather's "is like a big hug from Grandma." One "gooey, buttery and absolutely delicious" homemade cinnamon roll is enough to fill him up, and costs a painless $3.50.