Grocery Shopping Games and TV Shows Engage Into Enjoying Food

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As more and more people choose to skip cooking a homemade meal, restaurants are booming with customers and money from our credit cards. While we wait to be seated, order, and drool at thought of what to eat, does it ever come to mind the stakes and amount of pressure the chefs in the kitchen endure just to make us happy? As surely that defines the term hospitality, to some, the dish has more of a significance than the efforts put into it. However, Food Network puts home and professional chefs in the spotlight as they cook dishes that we wish to take through the silver screen and puts a competitive spirit in their hearts. Guy’s Grocery Games and Chopped are examples of these competitive cooking shows. Both of these shows invite viewers into the competitive world of prepping and cooking dishes, but Guy’s Grocery Games practicality make it more engaging than the professional atmosphere in Chopped.

Each of these shows have their own concept, but both revolve around the theme of competitive cooking, winning a grand prize, and a cherished title. Guy’s Grocery Games puts a twist on preparing and cooking. According to the show description on Food Network, it states, “Guy Fieri sends four talented chefs running through the aisles in a high-stakes, high-skills, grocery store cooking competition.” There is a twist here; this is not your average visit to the grocery store. Guy challenges the chefs by throwing curveballs their way. For example, in the episode “Single Aisle Showdown”, the four chefs were limited to shop in each round from one aisle. One of the chefs quoted, “Try it the next time you are at the grocery store and see what you can make out of one aisle.” This quote expresses the frustration of those chefs facing such a mounting challenge. To put into perspective, a normal supper may involve some produce, a grain, or a protein, which are usually found in separate aisles. Now, these chefs are tasked to make a dish from one aisle, which may not give such a variety or insensible ingredients to cook with. In each episode, there are three rounds. After each round, one falls short until one remains victorious. In Flavortown, the name of the market the show takes place, expected the unexpected. It pulls the unpredictable not only to the chefs but also to the viewers.

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Unlike Guy’s Grocery Games’ market setting, Chopped, hosted by Ted Allen, is set in a kitchen where four chefs are given a “mystery basket”, mystery ingredients that must be involved in their dish. After three rounds, just like Guy’s Grocery Games, only one will remain and win a grand monetary prize. As Ted Allen says, “If your dish doesn’t cut it, you will be chopped.” That is where the name comes in. Each round focuses on the three aspects of a normal restaurant visit: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. However, the mystery ingredients are what makes this show unique. Sometimes, it would have normal, sensible ingredients, such as simple herbs, vegetables, dairy, and protein. At times, there can be outlandish ingredients. For example, in the episode “Dill Dilemma”, one of their mystery ingredients for an appetizer was a dill pickle lollipop. In an episode that focuses on an ingredient in each round to be related to dill pickles, it is such an odd ingredient. At first, it does not inspire any sort of craving for it, but it is an ingredient that must be used in their dish in some way. The good thing it has to be integrated into the dish and not to taste in on its own! Chopped puts the chefs on their toes with such ingredients, or else they will be chopped.

Both of these shows force the chefs to think out of the box. In Guy’s Grocery Games, chefs had to get ingredients that could only start with a chosen letter. For example, if the letter ‘L’ was chosen, they could only get ingredients that begin with that letter. Just imagine picking a letter where not much begins with this letter. That forces them to think creatively on what dish they want to make to pick up the $20,000 grand prize. In the episode “All ABC Games”, all three rounds centered around this “dreaded grocery games of all”, according to Fieri. In the third and final round, they had to make a dish that satisfies an “Ultimate Fried Dinner” using only ingredients that began with ‘B’. Fieri added an extra surprise. They had to cook with a $23 budget. If that sounds dreadful, the chefs in Chopped have just the same amount of stress on creating a creative dish. One of the factors into each dish presented to the dish is creativity. In the episode “Chicken Challenge”, the two remaining chefs had to cook a dessert that involved chicken fried rice. One of the chefs mentioned that that chicken fried rice is good, but it is really more of a dinner than a dessert. However, both chefs were able to use the component in their dish in their own way. Despite the different outcomes, being able to comprise a dish from a random set of ingredients, especially those unrealistic ones, just exhibits creativity on a plate.

Besides showing their culinary skills, both of these shows display the competitors’ urge and ambition to become the champion. In Chopped, over a five-week span, 16 competitors from four different major barbecues competed against each other. In the fifth week, the winner from each previous week came together one final time to win the desired title “Grill Master.” That means a great amount of pride among the competitors. Everyone thinks they have what it takes because of their recognition, accomplishments, or capabilities. In the episode “Grill Masters: Kansas City”, one of the chefs, despite her youth, shows her determined desire to win that title. She says, “I am not going to play on the playground. I am here to play with the big dogs. … I’m young. I’m proud and I am here to win.” This 23-year old does not let her youth get between her and her goal to become a “Grill Master.” In Guy’s Grocery Games, four chefs must cook dishes representing their region of the United States: North, South, East, and West. That evokes some idea of pride in their cooking culture that represents where they are from. In the end, only one can win; no doubt, the winner in the end can say that they represented their region well. No matter the show, both show how each competitor strives to achieve and succeed.

These two shows have different approaches to culinary competition. In Guy’s Grocery Games, it is set in a supermarket with the chefs running through aisles to get ingredients needed to cook. They are even price tags and they are especially significant in challenges such as Budget Battle, where the chefs must get ingredients under a certain amount. Is that not applicable to everyday life? When running errands at the grocery store, many are concerned to not overspend on certain foods and items they need to supply their house. Also, it allows viewers to get creative in their cooking. Budgeting is important but taking only ingredients that begin with a certain letter or picking ingredients from one aisle can make grocery shopping enjoyable. There is no coercing to be professional chefs in a day but having that competition in such a practical setting makes cooking to a viewer more realistic than working with normal and sometimes ‘imaginative’ ingredients in Chopped. Chopped evokes a serious tone in the show in a kitchen setting. The tiny details, such as lighting and the type of ingredients, make the show intimidating. Of course, the show has light-hearted moments, but the first impression from the show stirs up a sense of solemnness. Unlike Chopped, however, Guy’s Grocery Games’ realistic setting can make the average home cook to get up, run to the supermarket, and prepare a dinner in thirty minutes with a budget in mind.

Food Network helps us to look into the world behind the revolving doors in a restaurant from the comfort of our own homes. Guy’s Grocery Games and Chopped has inspired many to get into cooking, even to the extent of competitive cooking. It makes us as the viewer feel the stress and whirlwind of emotions the chefs go through. They endure the heat and stress as they prepare their food to be judged with the hope of being the last one remaining. That competitive spirit in both shows causes the chefs to get inventive with their cooking. Whether it is walking out of Flavortown empty-handed or getting chopped and leaving with nothing, it brings an unforgettable experience to the chef and inspires those watching to have an interest in cooking. There is more behind a New York Strip steak or a filet mignon in a restaurant than we think. These two shows offer that on a well-adorned plate.

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