Taste TV

'Chopped' everywhere: 'Junior' is another facet of venerable series

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Andrew Warren / TV Media
Daniel Churchill, Marcus Samuelsson and Allison Williams join host Ted Allen and contestants of “Chopped Junior”

Daniel Churchill, Marcus Samuelsson and Allison Williams join host Ted Allen and contestants of “Chopped Junior”

When it comes to the TV dial, Food Network rules over a vast cooking empire. Its daytime programming is filled with how-to shows, while the prime-time slots are all about culinary competition. 

If there's one show that's the jewel in Food Network's empire, though, it must be "Chopped." The venerable cooking competition premiered back in ancient times -- 2009 -- and has remained pretty much the same ever since, with only a few nips and tucks here and there over the years.

With great success has come a great number of spinoffs, specials and shows that follow a similar format to "Chopped." Take "Chopped Junior," for one. The fifth season of this pint-sized cooking competition just got underway earlier this month, with its format that's almost a cookie-cutter copy of the grown-up version.

Four accomplished home cooks enter the competition at the outset of each episode, and have to cook a series of dishes using the four ingredients found in a closed basket on their workstations -- ingredients that they haven't seen before. Then, the clock starts ticking down until they have to present their culinary creations to a panel of discerning judges.

This week's episode, airing Tuesday, Feb. 21, on Food Network, is titled "Heads Will Roll," a name that should make it pretty clear what sort of thing is waiting for the kids in the appetizer round's basket. In the entrée round, the kids must deal with a cute candy, and for the dessert round, it's vegetables throwing them a culinary curveball.

Of course, shrinking "Chopped" down a few inches isn't the only way that Food Network has expanded on its winning format. "Guy's Grocery Games," "Cutthroat Kitchen" and "Cooks vs. Cons" may all be their own unique shows, but the "Chopped" DNA is definitely there, and even the many baking competitions on the channel have nearly 400 episodes of "Chopped" to look back on for guidance.

That's not bad for a simple cooking competition. "Chopped's" smaller-sized sibling is currently airing its fifth season Tuesday nights on Food Network.