No one was chopped this time around

Published 12:06 am Friday, January 3, 2014

Move over Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali. The next great American chef has made his debut.

Those were not my exact thoughts when I walked into the kitchen Tuesday to find my four-year old son standing on the counter reaching into the cabinets for a glass bowl.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

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“I am cooking,” Gibson said as he tried to pull out a dish.

I looked down to the counter and realized he had already pulled out the strawberries and shredded cheddar cheese from the refrigerator. He had pulled out the measuring cup and filled it with water.

Admittedly, my son goes through life at top speed. He is either going 90 miles an hour or he is sleeping. There is little in between.

Even still, Gibson demonstrated a real sense of urgency in his kitchen adventure. It was almost as if he were cooking against the clock.

As I snatched him off the counter before he could pull the whole set of dishes onto the floor, he exclaimed, “No, daddy. I don’t want to get chopped.”

With that I realized what was going on.

If you don’t watch the Food Network, you might not know the food game show “Chopped” exists.

The show features four chefs who compete for $10,000 by creating three-course meals using baskets filled with secret ingredients. After each course, judges determine which chef to cut and which chefs will continue to the next round. The competition continues until they are whittled down to one winner.

I didn’t know about the show until The Natchez Democrat wrote about Natchez native and Atlanta sous chef Jeffery Gardner’s stint in 2011.

Even though Gardner lost in the final dessert round, I have been hooked. I have been watching episodes via the Internet ever since. For the last few weeks, Gibson has been by my side.

I watch to see what the chefs will dish up from such strange ingredients as jicama, ivy gourd and chicken feet.

Gibson watches to see who gets chopped. As I watch the plates take shape, he constantly interrupts predicting who the next chopping block victim will be. I like the execution of ingredients; he likes the execution.

At the end of each course, he watches with anticipation when the losing chef’s dish is revealed. It is the only part of the show in which he is interested — or so I thought,

It turns out he was at least remotely curious about the cooking aspect of the show after all. Why else would he be scaling the kitchen cabinets to put together his own gastronomic delight?

There are moments when I wonder if I am ever going to survive being a father. Watching my son almost pull a whole stack of dishes out of the kitchen cabinet and envisioning the resulting crash is one of those times.

My immediate reaction that morning was to send Gibson to his room to play by himself and clean up the small mess that he already created.

Instead, I pulled him down off the counter and decided to make an even bigger mess showing him how to really cook. By the time we were finished turning those strawberries into cupcakes, there was flour, sugar and butter everywhere.

The two of us never had so much fun in the kitchen. It was more fun than watching any cooking show on the Internet could ever be.

The best part of it all was that no one got chopped.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at