Chopped ended its five-episode all-star season last night, and although the winner received $50,000 for charity, the losers all got nothing–a really disappointing coda to a strong season. (Update: the network is giving an additional $50,000 to charity of the chef who gets the most votes in an online poll. More below.)
The series has done nothing but improve since its so-so debut two years ago. This season worked not just because it featured familiar chefs–including the show’s own judges–but because that ramped up the level of intensity, and producers stuck with the winning formula of giving a mix of weird and challenging ingredients to the chefs.
Next Iron Chef cast member Nate Appleman won the show, beating runner-up and series judge Aaron Sanchez, whose dry chocolate cake did him in. Next Food Network Star and cast member Michael Proietti went home first, followed by Worst Chefs in America host Anne Burrell.
The show constantly emphasized the importance of charity to the chefs, but the producers and network offered nothing to any of those charities. Not only did the losers each semi-final round get nothing for their charities, the three finalists got nothing. The editing even highlighted that: When Michael was eliminated first, he said something like, “The hardest part is not being able to give anything to my charity.”
I was shocked that Ted Allen didn’t announce that they were giving anything to the losers’ charities in the early rounds, so I really expected it during the finale., perhaps an announcement that each charity would get $10,000, or even $1,000. But no. Instead, Food Network just asked us to give money.
Chopped usually gives $10,000 to its winner. The all-star season was five episodes long, meaning that they would have spent $50,000 on prizes had this been a normal run of episodes. That was the exact amount that the winner’s charity received, meaning that the all-star round didn’t cost the network anything additional. And Ted Allen and the judges kept talking about how amazing it was that one charity would get that money, as if it was crazy generous and not just the show’s normal budget compressed into one payment.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure $50,000 will help Nate’s charity, the Kawasaki Disease Foundation, will benefit (Nate called it “game-changing money” for the organization), it’s just that the show’s back-patting seemed a bit disproportionate. And while the publicity might help the charities–there’s a list of all charities and links to their web sites on Food Network’s web site–it’s too bad the show couldn’t help, too, after building an entire season that used them as the reason for its existence.
Update: Food Network is giving $50,000 to the winner of a fan favorite online poll, essentially doubling their contribution to charity. That is awesome. I remain surprised, though, that the runner-ups’ charities got nothing.