Those 50-plus minutes would get whittled down to two and sent off to the Food Network producers. If they liked me enough, I'd make the cut. How could they not?
The wait to hear back can be a long time
A little over a month later, I received an email. They liked me… but spots were few and far between, especially for local New York chefs. Would I agree to be a standby chef?
Being a backup makes you wish some terrible things
In every Chopped episode, there are four contestants. And they come from all over the country. Flights often get delayed or canceled. People get sick. Things come up. Heck, even if everyone makes it to tape, someone could get a bad case of stage fright or chop off a finger. That's where the standby comes in, and that's how a standby becomes a contestant.
As a standby, I had to show up and be prepared just like the real contestants. The night before I sharpened my knives and laid out my shoes and comfortable clothes. I set the alarm for 4:30am. As I attempted to fall asleep, I couldn't quite quell my nerves. I knew the chances were slim. "In several cases, standby chefs have stepped in to compete (and in some cases won!)," the email said. Screw the odds. I convinced myself I had a shot.