Maneet Chauhan talks ins and outs of new Food Network show ‘Chopped: Desperately Seeking Sous Chef’

Maneet Chauhan
Judge Maneet Chauhan and Chef Reuben Dhanawade in round 2, as seen on “Chopped.”
Photo courtesy of Food Network

The hit cooking competition series “Chopped” is taking the competition to a new level by looking for someone to join a judge’s company.

“Chopped: Desperately Seeking Sous Chef” will have chefs going head to head to see who will become the next sous chef for either Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant or Chris Santos in a five-part tournament. Hosted by Ted Allen, the tournament is very familiar at the start with the chefs competing in a “Chopped” style competition with mystery basket ingredients. However, in addition to judging their cooking skills, the judges are also assessing the competitors’ attitudes, leadership, and ability to multitask while they work.

“[Chopped] all boils down to at the end of the day, our decision is always made on the plate, the food. It’s not the person, it’s not the story, and that’s something that we’ve done over the years,” said Chauhan. “This time around, because we are looking at somebody joining our work family, the most important thing to us was to talk to these chefs to see how they conduct themselves in the kitchen, what their attitude was and how they gel with us and our organization. This took ‘Chopped’ to the next level of not only the food has to be amazing in the time required with all of the challenging ingredients, but also how it’s presented in front of us and how they conduct themselves in the kitchen.”

At the end of the competition, the winner will be crowned the grand champion and will get a job offer by Chauhan, Conant or Santos to join their restaurants as a sous chef. At this point, the judges have to sell why joining their team is the best choice for the winner.

“It’s interesting because that’s what an interview process is all about. It’s not just the candidate selling themselves, but also the interviewers selling ourselves,” said Chauhan. “Towards the end, the tables are turned and we’ve got to convince whoever is the person who makes it all the way that we are the best company and best people for them to join.”

For Chauhan, she looks for someone who is looking for a can-do attitude and someone who can feel more like a partner rather than an employee. Most importantly, any sous chef on her team should be excited about the kind of cuisine that she does at her restaurants.

Judge Maneet Chauhan, as seen on Chopped, Season 52Photo courtesy of Food Network

“The cuisine is different and a lot of people probably haven’t dabbled in Indian cuisine or Chinese cuisine or street Indian,” said Chauhan. “So to me, what was important was to get somebody that was excited about the cuisine, who wants to learn more about the cuisine, but also have an open mind and the right attitude.”

Throughout the competition, the chefs are put to the test from culinary techniques to thinking creatively at a moment’s notice. Chauhan believes that a “Chopped” style tournament is the perfect competition for these chefs to endure.

“This is what happens in the kitchen on a daily basis. They are timed when things don’t show up, it’s a constant challenge of figuring out how to make the most out of whatever resources are available, especially in today’s day in age where staffing is a constant issue, supply chain is a constant issue,” said Chauhan. “So the creativity needs to be in a sous chef to come up with solutions when problems come in front of them, and that is why ‘Chopped’ is the perfect competition for a trade test, so to speak.

All three judges agree that this new show is incredibly heartwarming and has a human angle that you don’t always find in the original “Chopped.” Chauhan hopes that those who tune in to “Chopped: Desperately Seeking Sous Chef” will see that this is what it’s actually like to work in the food industry.

“One of the biggest things that I would hope they walk away with is the fact that when they turn on the TV and see ‘Chopped,’ it’s so much more than a show,” said Chauhan. “This is a glimpse of how people in the industry actually live and conduct themselves, and there is something really exciting to be a part of the industry, the constant movement and no two days are the same, the challenges you have and the feeling of belonging to a family when we overcome those challenges. This is true life what they see on ‘Chopped.'”

“Chopped: Desperately Seeking Sous Chef” premieres at 9 p.m. ET/PT on May 31 on Food Network. To get to know the competing chefs and get a sneak peek at some of the mystery basket ingredients at FoodNetwork.com/Chopped.