Sweets-lovers, rejoice: Food Network has a sugary spin-off of the show Chopped, called, well, Chopped Sweets. The host is none other than Mora chef Scott Conant, who combines his expertise as a judge on Chopped and as a host on Best Baker in America to do double duty on the new show. If you'd like to catch the premiere, tune in to Food Network at 10 p.m. EST on Monday, February 3, for “Boozy Baskets,” and see what happens when a bunch of chefs try to balance an adult beverage with pastry perfection.
But what you're probably wondering is: What does Conant think about all this?
“I tell you, it makes for a very long day when you are host and judge,” Conant says. “You have nine desserts coming your way.” He laughs. “But that’s a high-class problem. I’ll take it.” To prepare, he refrains from eating sweets long before the show.
A chef and restaurateur, Conant has a diverse culinary background. He is known as a savory chef, but he also has a good deal of pastry experience. After completing training at The Culinary Institute of America (known as the Harvard of culinary schools), he worked at Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich with a well-known pâtissier. And part of his responsibility as a chef over the years has been overseeing the pastry kitchen.
Conant also owns multiple restaurants that have received rave reviews and three stars from the New York Times. He started cooking at 15 and now has 35 years of experience under his belt. Despite this wealth of knowledge and reputation as a tough judge on Chopped, he's down to earth and funny as a host.
“One way or another, I end up cooking," he says. "Whether it’s when I come home to cook for my wife and kids, or when we get a break in shooting where I make risotto for the staff or a pasta carbonara for the team. I can’t help it. I just gravitate toward cooking.”
Chopped Sweets has the same structure as Chopped — four contestants compete in the first round, three in the second, and two in the final. Aside from Conant, there will be two other rotating judges on the show. Each episode includes four pastry chefs with mystery baskets with ingredients they must use to create a winning dessert while racing against the clock. At the end of this tunnel is a $10,000 light.
“These are world-class pastry chefs,” Conant says. “I literally sat at the judging table and had some of the best desserts I’ve had in my life. Some of it was emotional. I couldn’t believe the talent of these chefs and the amount of work they did in a concentrated block of time with some obscure, wild ingredients.”
The unknown components, which Food Network’s president Courtney White refers to as “eccentric mystery ingredients,” are chosen by a culinary team. Maybe Conant could share with us some of those ingredients?
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Nope. But he did have this to say:
“It’s Chopped. Many of the ingredients are strange. There have been a number of baskets that completely stumped me as I observed the chefs cooking, but I think it's totally different when you’re in the kitchen and you have to do it. I was very happy there wasn't any durian, I will say that much.”
The primary structural difference between Chopped and Chopped Sweets is that the episodes are themed, rather than divided up into appetizer, entree, and dessert. Examples include "Glazed and Confused?," where the chefs must create doughnuts from unusual and “icky, itty-bitty ingredients,” and "Chocolate Perfection," in which a “hearty Indian specialty threatens to throw them off their game.” Overall, it looks like the contestants and the host are in for some fun.
“Honestly, it is the best TV I’ve ever done," Conant says, "and I am so excited about it.”