Full disclosure: I am a Food Network junkie. I can watch that channel for hours, days, months on end. So when Chopped Canada’s newest judge Eden Grinshpan became available for an interview, I jumped at the chance. Plus, she’s a total knockout. Everyone wins. Gearing up for the new season, Grinshpan was able to take a few minutes to talk about her travels, pigs heads and her incredible love of cooking: “I’ve always had an obsession with butter.”
Firstly, you should know, Chopped and Chopped Canada are my jam. I’m addicted. So I want to know what it’s like being a judge. Which is my dream job, by the way.
I’m like you, I’ve been watching them on the show and other shows for so many years that being a part of it is just such a cool experience. It’s incredible to watch so much talent and creativity happen in front of you in such a short period of time. It’s probably one of the hardest competitions I’ve seen. I’ve yet to leave a taping of the show without being inspired.
What mystery ingredients would you throw in that basket?
I would put a pig’s head because there’s nothing I would enjoy more than watching someone’s face when they open a basket and finds an entire pig’s head. To me it’s genius. Maybe black licorice because it’s really sweet and people either love it or hate it. Then I’d probably give them a fresh herb like parsley because it would be something that can brighten the dish and help it out. Two hard ones and then something that would be really useful. I’m not too mean!
What do you try to keep in mind when you’re judging?
Well, you obviously have to judge based off your own personal criteria of what’s the most important to you. Creativity is really important on Chopped Canada. For me, the most important is taste. I can tell you that it’s a fun and exciting season.
Is there anything you’d never eat?
If you bring me a chicken that’s still pretty raw, that won’t be eaten. No way. Any food that can get me sick from being improperly cooked is the only food I won’t eat. Other than that, I like to try everything! Sometimes you can take a bite out of something that doesn’t look appealing and realize that it’s delicious. You have to be open and willing to try it all.
This next question is to judge your own judging talents! I watched an old episode of Chopped where every single contestant had something wrong with his or her plate in the same round. I want to know which you would have eliminated: a plate with a hair on it, a plate with undercooked pork or a plate that was missing one of the mystery ingredients?
[Laughs] Oh god, I don’t know! You give me a dish with a nasty hair on it, it’s going to gross me right out. But honestly, I would have to say the missing ingredient gets the boot.
That was the choice the judges made. I totally disagreed, but that’s why I’m not on the panel.
Well, that’s a huge part of the game! You can’t leave any of the mystery ingredients out. You win the competition by highlighting those ingredients. If it’s not there then you didn’t do your job.
Fine. You’re a real, honest and true judge!
[Laughs] I’m so happy I passed!
I have to ask, are you at all impressed by men who cook?
Absolutely. I think that there is nothing sexier than a man who can cook. And any female will agree with me. I think a woman would prefer to be cooked for than taken out. Yes, getting taken out is exciting and romantic, but the thought process that goes into making a meal is time consuming and all about the details. It’s nice to see that vulnerable side of men. And they need to work for their woman, you know?
You’ve done quite a bit of traveling for your culinary career.
I have! When I graduated culinary school and was living in England, I would use my weekends to travel through the rest of Europe. It was really about experiencing other countries and cultures through their food. So I decided to go on a big trip. I set myself up with this course that took me around India for three months. I completely fell in love with India. I think the food is just so amazing. It’s all so rich in flavour as well as in history and heritage. It deepened the desire to continue traveling and learning about people through the food they eat.
I was going to ask which country or experience changed you the most, but I feel like the answer is going to be India.
It definitely was India. I worked at an orphanage and they had this café that was closed down so I thought about opening it back up so it can bring some money back into the orphanage. So that’s what I did. It’s actually how I got into the television industry because I taped it, made it in to a reel and ended up moving to New York City.
Through all your travels, what would you say your favourite exotic dish to make (and eat) would be?
I would have to say that balut in Vietnam was hands down the most exotic dish I’ve ever had. That’s a fertilized duck embryo egg. And I had it while getting a pedicure! Someone was walking around selling them while my friend and I were getting our toes done and we called out asking to try one. We had to.
You’ve already worked on quite a few shows since starting on TV.
The first show I was on was called Eden Eats, a food and travel show on the cooking network in the US. It was about people who immigrated from all over the world and how they brought their food and culture to America. I also had Log On & Eat with Eden Grinshpan, which was another food and travel show that featured guests who are huge in the food social media world.