7 Life Lessons from the Food Network TV Show Chopped

I am the furthest thing from a foodie. The best culinary compliment of my life came just the other day when my wife told me I did a great job cooking the frozen lasagna in the microwave. But for some unexplained reason, I’ve found myself watching the Food Network show Chopped.

If you haven’t seen it, in each episode they bring in 4 chefs who compete in three rounds making an appetizer, an entre, and a dessert from mystery ingredients. After each round one of the chefs is “chopped” until there is one winner at the end.

While watching an episode earlier this week it occurred to me that in many ways the show parallels life.

1) We don’t get to choose the main ingredients. Each round starts by revealing 4 mystery ingredients the chefs are required to use in their dish. We do not get to choose many of the “ingredients” of our lives including what country we’re born in, our ethnicity is, what gifts and talents we’ve been given, and the family we’re born into.

2)There’s always at least one curveball. In every episode there’s at least one bizarre ingredient which the chefs look at and say, “What the???” They’ve either never cooked with it before or in some cases never even heard of it. Life invariability throws us curveballs too, circumstances that we have never faced before and feel completely unprepared for.

chopped-chefs3) It’s up to us what we do with them. While the chefs don’t get to pick the mystery ingredients, they can cook them any way they want and use any other ingredients with them they like. In life, we too are responsible for how we respond to our circumstances and how we use the gifts and talents we’ve been given.

4) Time is precious. The chefs have a very limited amount of time to cook each dish. They have not a moment to spare and never have the opportunity to do everything they want to. Our lives are much longer than an episode of chopped and hopefully less hurried, but every moment is still precious.

5) Winners don’t play it safe. Many a chef has been “chopped” for playing it safe with their ingredients. Similarly, the people who have the greatest impact on this world are the ones who use their creativity and take bold risks.

6) Everyone stands to be judged. At the end of each round the chefs face the judges, who determine their fate. At the end of our lives, we will all stand before God.

7) We are held accountable for what we’ve done with what we’ve been given. The judges make their assessments based on the ingredients the chefs were given. If the chefs are given pheasant, the judges don’t drag them over the coals for failing to grill steaks. They will criticize a chef if they can’t taste one of the ingredients in a dish. And one of the highest compliments a chef can receive is when a judge says they like the way they brought all the ingredients together in a way that they complement each other. We too are responsible for what we’ve been given, nothing more and nothing less. Comparing ourselves to others is not only useless but harmful, because we’ve been given different “ingredients.”

Fortunately, there are also many ways in which life is not like Chopped. In life there is more than one winner, there are second chances, and the prize for using the ingredients of your life well is worth far more than $10,000.

If you watch Chopped, what’s the most unusual ingredient you’ve seen used?

In your life, what’s the best or most challenging “ingredient” you’ve been given? How are you making the most of it?

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