I have a new show that I love to watch (by the way, I am addicted to The Food Network). The show is Chopped on The Food Network and if you’ve never seen it, it begins with four chefs who each have the same “surprise” basket of foods containing four or five ingredients that they must use in a dish. The catch is, the ingredients don’t necessarily go together and there is usually at least one that is either very hard to work with (like tamarind paste), very hard to make high end (mac and cheese in a box) or one that just plain doesn’t fit. The chef/contestants do get to use other ingredients from the stocked pantry and refrigerator. Also, one by the one the chefs get “chopped” on the basis of their dishes until there is just one winner left.

Last night we were watching and  as usual, the ingredients were fun to see be pulled out of the basket. We were surprised to hear one of the chefs (and they are all real chefs) say he had never tasted eggplant, one of the basket ingredients. What chef hasn’t tasted eggplant, I wondered. It turns out, he’s allergic. He was afraid even his hands would swell when he began to cut it. Of course, he went for it anyway, as the prize is not only bragging rights but $10,000.

I was surprised that the producers don’t check into allergies during the application process. Shouldn’t there be somewhere on some form where you can list your allergies? Or is it a risk you take as a chef.

So he makes it through the eggplant round only to find grapefruit in his next basket. Something else he is allergic to! Not only is he worried again about swelling, but he can’t taste his food again before he serves it.

What does a chef with allergies do? Hope for the best? Avoid that ingredient even though your food may suffer? Give up the profession? I remember a while ago reading about a food critic with food allergies. He stuck with what he loved, carried emergency meds and traveled the world doing tasting food. More power to him, I say. And to the chef who unfortunately got chopped last night in the final round. Did it have anything to do with his allergies? Nope, his food just wasn’t as good as the other guy,s.

But I bet he is glad that at least if he had to lose, it was to the other guy and not his allergies. He definitely beat them.

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