Reality television got a gourmet taste of Austin cuisine when Paul Qui won Top Chef Texas, and now it wants more. The Food Network show Chopped is coming to Austin in July to cast for upcoming episodes of the popular James Beard Award winning show. We talked with Beth Schiff, a casting director for Chopped, about scouting Austin talent and why we’ll be seeing more Texas chefs on the show in upcoming episodes. For those interested in applying to be on the show, see the links below.
Why are you casting in Austin? Is there something specific about the city or the Texas culinary scene that appeals to casting?
Chopped traditionally focused on New York City chefs and restaurants, but in more recent seasons we’ve had the opportunity to explore new culinary communities across the country. It’s very exciting. After casting chefs from San Francisco, Miami, Portland, Atlanta, and New Orleans – just to name a few – it’s only fitting that we would hit the Southwest. Austin, in particular, is very attractive to our team because it is known for being an artistic hub of the Southwest and having an experimental, creatively progressive atmosphere. In initially researching Austin, one thing we noticed is that many of the chefs seem pretty fearless in creating out-of-the-box dishes. Chopped is all about left-field thinking and a healthy lack of fear in the face of new challenges, so Austin seemed like a perfect fit. We’re excited to see what Austin has to offer. We’re also excited to meet talented chefs who work in kitchens that make more traditional Southwestern fare.
What kinds of chefs are you looking for during casting?
We are looking for creative, dynamic chefs who can elevate our basket ingredients and thrive under pressure. These chefs should be ready to put their skills to the test in a challenging environment and create inspirational dishes. Not only do you have to deal with mystery ingredients, time constraints, and critiques from our judges, but you also have to interact with our host as well as work in the studio environment with lights and cameras. It’s not a competition for the faint of heart, but that’s why so many people apply. We get chefs who love the adrenaline rush associated with kitchen, and Chopped is the ultimate culinary adrenaline rush.
What does the casting process entail? What will chefs be expected to do?
The first step is filling out an online application at ChoppedCasting.com. If you are professional chef, you fill out the standard application. If not, you can potentially apply for one of our special applications. We review all applications, and if we feel someone is a good fit for the show, we schedule them for an on-camera interview while we are in Austin in early July. We submit these applications and on-camera interviews to our producers and go from there. We ask that chefs are very thorough in answering the questions on the application. Our team really needs to get a sense of the chefs’ personalities, styles, and passion for cooking.
What can we expect in the upcoming episodes of Chopped? Anything new or exciting?
We have several special episodes that we are currently casting. We are looking for amateur cooks who aren’t in the kitchen and haven’t gone to culinary schools [but] can hold their own against anyone in the kitchen; military chefs who can throw down; chefs from the same family, blood-related or through marriage, who are willing to go up against each other and others for a Chopped family battle; chefs who have a great personal weight loss story; and moms who have a huge passion for cooking to the point where they would rather be nowhere else but in the kitchen.
Is it likely we will see more Texas chefs on the show?
You will definitely see Texas represented on the show, as soon as this summer in fact. We are excited by the research we’ve done so far in terms of culinary talent, so we have high expectations.