Ted Allen is what you might call the foodie’s foodie. A chef, author and one of the former coaches from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", this charismatic culinary know-it-all currently hosts "Chopped", the Food Network’s weekly competition show that pits four chefs against each other to make the best three course meal using baskets of mystery ingredients, as well as two spin-offs "Chopped Junior" and "Chopped Impossible".
Luckily, we were able to catch up with Ted between courses and surprise him with this week’s mystery basket of QUEST10NS:
Where did you go on your last trip?
Yountville, Calif., in the beautiful Napa Valley.
What was your favorite memory from it?
Dinner at Thomas Keller's lovely Bouchon Bistro, and the amazing pork chop at Redd Wood. Also, the French Laundry's organic garden.
What are your four favorite places you've traveled?
Lately, it has been Paris, Saigon, Charleston, and Oaxaca.
Name an ingredient you'd most associate with each of those place?
Pain du Chocolat in Paris, pho in Saigon, Sean Brock's fried chicken in South Carolina, and, of course, mole in every color in Oaxaca.
What entree would you make in 30 minutes using those ingredients and items found in the "Chopped" pantry?
Good one! Shoot, now I want to go back and change my original answers (but I won't): a quick, faux chicken mole (black), using the chocolate croissant as a thickener, stripping the meat off the chicken bones, using only the broth from the pho, and using the bones to enrich the sauce, along with raisiny ancho and Guajillo chiles, and making a garnish from Brock's crispy breading.
Most surprising city for great food?
So many, these days! Nashville is killing it lately. I had a great organic dinner in a tavern in Noblesville, Indiana.
Airline that served you the best inflight meal?
Virgin America—Indian-inspired appetizer, lots of spice, and fresh, crispy vegetables. I don't get why so many other airlines want to serve you shrimp. I'd rather you give me a nice ham sandwich. Airlines should regard their inflight food the way you would a picnic, and skip the gloppy, cheesy pasta.
Most unusual ingestible you've brought home from a trip?
Now that the statute of limitations is up: real absinthe from Germany, before it was legal here.
If you found yourself on an episode of "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy", what might you be coached on?
How to appreciate ESPN. Hell, I'm paying for it.
Where will you go on your next adventure?
We're thinking Buenos Aires, Caballeros!
Watch Ted Allen on "Chopped", which airs Tuesday on the Food Network at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central); "Chopped Junior" at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central); and "Chopped: Impossible" on Thursday at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central).