I have obsessively watched the Food Network’s Chopped Canada, and the US version, Chopped, for many years now. To me, it is the perfect culinary challenge because it combines obscure mystery basket ingredients, tangled with a tight time limit, in a new kitchen, which can either stimulate creative magic, or lead to disaster. When a chef rises to this type of occasion, and pushes themselves to perform with so many variables to consider, it’s a thrilling high stakes gamble. So, it is for those reasons … I absolutely love watching the show!
If you are new to Chopped Canada lingo, here are the show’s rules. Each episode of Chopped Canada challenges four professional chefs to turn boxes of mystery ingredients into a three-course meal in a race against the clock. Each course serves as its own round in the competition, and the chef with the least-successful dish — as determined by a panel of judges — is eliminated after each round. The chef who comes out on top following the dessert round wins $10,000 and the title of “Chopped Canada” champion.
When my maybe-one-day-daughter-in-law, KD, heard that Chopped was coming to Canada in 2014, she was the first one to enthusiastically exclaim, “Lynda! You’re cooking is awesome!! Fill out an application for Chopped Canada, you can do it!”
Of course I just thought she was nuts. It’s easy for her to say “go do it” but for me to actually go and do it … that’s a whole new piece of land to start farming. Having said that, the thought did stick in my head. She had planted the seed … and watered it.
As the year passed, I was busy transitioning my self-employment from horse training, and coaching Reining riders, to building my business called, Lawn to Food. Growing food has always been a prominant part of my life, but now it, my passion for teaching, local food and the environment came together as one. Growing vegetables, blogging about the benefits of organic, helping people learn to preserve their harvests, continually putting on dinner parties and planning family feasts, make my life a creative and very fulfilling one.
The idea of being a Chopped Canada competitor did continue to crossed my mind from time to time but my self-doubt rationalization conversation stated that am not actually a professional chef, and I haven’t even worked as a full-time cook since the 1990’s. The Lillooet District Hospital’s dietary department, and even running the Noax Mountain logging camp kitchen, is no comparison to formal chef training and restaurant experience.
“You’ll never make it so why bother trying”, thoughts rolled around in my head.
Lawn to Food continues to blossom and bloom. At our 1/4 acre home, the growing space has extended and expanded in both the back, and the front yards. This little space grows such an abundance because it incorporates organic methods and permaculture principles. So much so, I was able to open the Lawn to Food Urban Farmstand to offer seasonal fruits, vegetables and fresh bread to passersby. Neighbours from all around have been inspired to grow more of their own food. We trade excesses, exchange recipes, allow children explore veggie beds to find their own food, all of which is literally helping our community grow together!
In the spring of 2015, our grandson, Brusselsprout, and I were nestled on the couch watching an episode of Chopped Canada. Brusselsprout always picks a male competitor to win for him, and then chooses a female competitor for me to win with. Once our “players” are picked, and the appetizer round begins, we give them suggestions on what to make with the mystery basket ingredients (Brusselsprout’s solution is usually pancakes, which are his favorite) then our cheering gets louder as the clock ticks down. We wait anxiously for the judging to commence, listen carefully to their critiques, secretly wish we could actually taste the food, then cross our fingers, each hoping that our player won’t get chopped!
After this particular episode of Chopped Canada, my female player didn’t win the final round and so I pretended to be a bit sad. Brusselsprout rubbed my arm soothingly and said, “Well, if you were actually on the show Grandma, then you would win because you cook good food, but you weren’t there, so that’s why you didn’t win”.
Profound words from a youngster. Which made me once again contemplate applying to be a competitor on Chopped Canada. Being on the Food Network would be fabulous exposure for my Lawn to Food business. I could get my message out nationally about how awesome it is to grow your own food. People can use current lawn space, to save on their weekly grocery bills, connect with themselves, their neighbours and our precious earth. Also for me, it would be personally very challenging and push me out of my comfort zone. Not to mention the $10,000 first place prize! I mean really, what harm could come from it? Most importantly, applying to compete on Chopped Canada would teach Brusselsprout a valuable lesson ~ “If you never try, then you’ll never know” ~ or perhaps, I was the one that needed to learn that lesson.
Later that very same evening, after he was tucked into bed, I checked my email and Facebook page. Guess what was at the top of my Facebook news feed? … the Chopped Canada Season 3 casting call for professional chefs 🙂 … now THAT was a sign if I have ever seen one.
I spent the next few hours carefully filling out an application form … and yes, (omg!!), I eventually made the cut and was selected out of 100’s of applicants, to be a Season 3 competitor on Chopped Canada! I will be forever grateful for this incredible, life-changing opportunity ~ Thank You
Season 3 – Airs for the first time on March 5, 2016
Read more at http://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/chopped-canada/episode-guide/#IrKfKlxYAPfyz5W4.99.