Chopped: my taste of TV cookery

Paul Jones turned chef to experience the pressure of cooking against the clock - and in front of the cameras

Four chefs. Three judges. One winner: me! But before I give up the day job to chase that first Michelin star, perhaps I should rewatch the video (above) in which, out of earshot, the judges say what they really think of my food.


“It’s half and half for me: very good and very bad,” is one comment, just to give you a flavour.

Judging the culinary concoctions of myself and three other journalists were Andy Bates, Lotte Duncan and Tristan Welch, the UK chefs – along with Jun Tanaka – competing in British Invasion, which kicks off the new series of Chopped on the Food Network tonight (Freeview 49, Freesat 405, Sky 262). 

The format of the US show is reminiscent of the invention test in MasterChef, yet the pressure is even greater. 

Not only is it professional v professional but contestants must use all of the ingredients they discover when they open their baskets at the start of the round (including such wacky products as grape jelly powder and cheesy corn snacks, along with more traditional produce). 

And they get just 30 minutes to create their dishes before they’re assessed on taste, presentation and originality.

After each course, one of the contestants is “Chopped” – the show’s gimmick has a judge dramatically lifting a silver cloche to reveal the losing dish – until only one chef remains.

Chopped is full of over-the-top culinary theatrics with just the right amount of tongue in cheek. But I can confirm from personal experience that, with the clock ticking and cameras in your face, the pressure is all too real.

So what did I learn from my experience? Well, sweet potato and Stilton mash is a very good idea. Steak with fig sauce is not. And however bad you are at something, there are probably three journalists somewhere who are even worse than you.


See who makes the cut when Chopped UK British Invasion airs on the Food Network, Monday 5 September at 9pm. And catch series seven of Chopped from Tuesday 6 September at 9pm