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?

24 Responses to “7 Life Lessons from the Food Network TV Show Chopped”

  1. I love the show and consider myself a “foodie” great comparison ????

  2. Great analogy and lessons taken from Chopped. All of it so true! Life is all about making the most of what you’ve been given.

  3. Nice analogy – I’m a foodie and I can’t remember the strangest ingredient they’ve used but there was once something that turned to a glue-like consistency if it was cooked wrong! That sounds a lot like taking a gamble in business that goes wrong, lol =)

  4. Srivatsan Krishnamurthy March 14, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    First off – Miss Food Network terribly sitting here in India 🙁 This is a fantastic set of analogies that you’ve got. Strangest ingredient in life is to face life without my father. Lot more things to take care off and the pain associated. But like you’ve said about the show there is always a curve-ball thrown and every week mystery ingredients change. So you have to keep an open mind and play 🙂 which is what i am doing.

    • Sorry to hear about that, Srivatsan. There’s no tougher “ingredient” in life than losing someone you love. As I wrote in the last post, I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I do believe God can bring good out of every situation if we’re willing to work through it with him.

  5. Hey Paul, Great 7 lessons! We don’t get to choose who we work with (family) but I think they were chosen for us for a reason. There’s always a curveball! If life ever settles down for a second, something else comes along. It’s the nature of the world, God, heaven, the earth, everything… nothing stands still. We’re either moving forwards or backwards.
    thanks for sharing today! 🙂 Kari

  6. I appreciate you pointing out that at the end of our journey we face our maker. Too many spend their entire lives fighting the wrong person, myself included. When we realize He is for us, it’s easier to face the daily decisions that require either persistence or sacrifice.

    Great post.

    • Thanks Catherine. Your comment caused me to realize another important way life is NOT like Chopped… on Chopped the chefs are on their own, but we are not. We are fortunate to not only have other chefs around to help but the Master Chef as well.

  7. Ouch, # 7 is so true. never thought about it in terms of the Food Network!

  8. Dude I love that show and in a mater of seconds you changed my day with this post. I’ll use this as a reference point from now on.

  9. I love the analogies, Paul. My family and I like Ramsey’s Master Chef, so we’ll have to give this one a shot too. Thanks for highlighting it and your insightful spin on the show!

  10. I appreciate your take on this. I also used Chopped as an illustration, here’s a link for comparison if you like.


  11. That show is fun – also only 23 minutes when using DVR 🙂

    I appreciate how you were able to draw these analogies from a TV show – I will spread through Twitter.

  12. Going through 2 hip replacements and 2 emergency revisions -4 different surgeries – in just 14 years, in addition to long immobility and pain, was a great challenge for me. But God never left my side. I could have chosen Fear, anger, depression, and dispair as my partners but I chose acceptance, faith and trust that God was there for me. By removing my sacret self from the problem and the suffering, not only I could handle the suffering but allowed it to work with God, placing me in a state of Grace and heeling, where God creates miracles. From there I could see the positive and benefitial aspects, and the hidden harmony that lies in chaos, instead of falling deep into chaos. Praying, detachment, family, and friends, and lots of reading and writing brought peace of mind and healing!

    • Katina, thanks for sharing a bit of your story with us. Way to hang in there and praise be to God for his faithfulness. I hope others who know you in real life or see your story here are encouraged by it.

  13. Just found your blog today. My wife loves Chopped so I had to click this link. I shared this with her and she loves your ideas and we agree completely.

    As a family who has decided to uproot ourselves, and our two teenage daughters, to move to Northern Iraq, we have seen several of your points play out while living here. Having experienced this, I would have to add one more to your list. “You have to step up and show up in order to compete.” As your blog title suggests, living intentionally involves action. No one has to deal with the mystery ingredients if they don’t show up, but they also miss out on any rewards.

    Thanks for this post, Paul. Blessings.

    • Kinley, thanks for taking the time to post. Great addition to the list – you definitely have to show up to compete. There are plenty of chefs who wouldn’t dream of competing on Chopped and there are of people who sit on the sidelines of life. I want to encourage as many people as possible to step and show up for their own life!

      Way to go on moving to Iraq! That’s a huge, bold move. I’d love to hear more about that – there must be a big dream and/or a God story behind that. If you’d like to share that story here, here’s info about guest blogging:


  14. The idea behind the show is appealing.T he” judging “is NOt line with the actual food presented….but rather the judging is all about the person preparing the food…more often than not,…the winner is ill prepared,unappealing presentation,and not harmonious,in concept….all excused…then called a winner for unrelated reasons e.g.poor, racial ,or other factors..not judged on the FOOD….I have watched this show for the last time….In fairness to the real chiefs…the dishes should be presented..no one knowing who the chief is until the round ends,therefore,fairly judging the food,and not the person.What a noval concept !!!.Sick of the same old predicted results…grow a set of walnuts,and honestly judge fairly!!!!

    • Sounds like you may have watched last night’s episode and not agreed with the results?

      Fortunately, in real life the judging in not necessarily fair either. 🙂


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