Saturday, June 16, 2012

A kid's "Chopped" themed birthday party

My daughter turned 8 in March and specifically requested a "Chopped" themed birthday party.  Of course, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...Realizing she was serious, I began mildly panicking inside thinking - "but they are trained CHEFS on Chopped - and you're EIGHT."  Never one to shrink from a challenge, I donned my chef hat, and opened my own basket to whip up some fun for this one.  To prepare, we diligently watched the show, Chopped on the Food Network, and took copious notes on how to structure our event. Thank you Ted Allen.

Determining the menu proved the biggest challenge - given the inability by most to cook, and the intentional decision by me not to have anyone handle hot items from the oven, toaster, or the like, and/or cut or spear anything, this vastly limited our options.  Nonetheless, we came up with some doozie ingredients to go in the baskets.  The idea was always to have the "mini chefs" eat what they created.  That idea quickly went out the window....

We decided to create teams vs. individuals competing, and to color code our teams.  We selected Green, Hot Pink, Blue, & Purple for the teams, with Red & White reserved for the Pantry.  Each team was comprised of four girls with aprons to match their team color.  Yes, for those doing the math here, that's 16 mini chefettes!  Talk about putting yourself in hot water!

Each girl was able to select their team color upon arrival and then head to their team table bedecked in their signature color for utensils, plates, cups, bowls, baskets, balloons, and pens  - just so there was no cross 'contamination' or cheating!  The "Secret Ingredients" were pre-stocked in three pre-set baskets, adorned with team color Poofs, but tied shut so there were no sneak peekers!  Next up was decorating their chef hats in their team color pen.  I was so impressed with the girl's creativity when it came to these hats.  This one was the most creative IMHO  - she wrote on every fold of the hat something unique and fun. 

Next, each team was assigned an adult lead Chef to ensure safety, and offer assistance and ideas.  All were briefed on the rules of the game, and asked to watch the introduction to the actual show Chopped.   

I could not believe how INTO this event the girls (and the adults!) were. The minute the time was set on the clock, it was pure, exhilarating bedlam!  Ingredients were flying, the pantry items fought over, and creativity was in a whirl! 

Appetizer Round 1:
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Flax Seeds
  • Bananas
  • Cheerios
For this round, I thought surely the girls would work with their Adult chef leader and make a smoothie using the blenders in the "pantry".  Their creations were anything but your basic, easy Smoothie.  Time was soon up and it was time to reveal the Winner of Round 1 - The Purple Team! 

To avoid tears flying - and not just kitchen utensils, we decided to award prizes for each of four categories we created, such as erasers, pencils, stickers, jelly bracelets, or temporary tattoos.
  • Most Creative
  • Best Taste
  • Best Presentation
  • Chopped Champion 
The "Chopped Champion" for each round would win an extra prize of a Victory medal, and a Candy Necklace to wear and enjoy.

My daughter served as "Ted" (she insisted her name tag even said "Ted") and announced each winner's plate, color coded and placed under it's corresponding tureen.

Our suckers, errr....judges, were three poor souls who had to taste and sample these 'creations'.   Needless to say, I bought them dinner later.  They especially enjoyed the spray cheese mixed with whipped cream - on every dish, supplied by the Crazy fun girls who made up the Hot Pink team.

 For the alleged 'dinner' round, the creations were again astounding.  Inedible, but astounding.   Pink team kept their signature ingredient of whipped cream involved, and not to be one trick ponies, they added chocolate sauce and mini-M&Ms to their noodle and cheese creation.  Judge #1 needed replacing after this round! :)  

Dinner Round - 2
  • Mac n' cheese (noodles cooked only - not mixed)
  • Pickles
  • Pretzels
  • Cooked Bacon
The Chopped Champions of Round 2 were declared as the Green Team!

Round 3 - the Dessert Round brought more fun to the table with a basket full of more crazy ingredients:
  • Cupcake - unfrosted
  • Frosting 
  • Sprinkles
  • Peeps - in matching team colors, of course - for Peep's sake! 
Blue Team triumphed here for their BLENDED cupcake shake, complete with Peep floating in a 'chocolate hot tub', if you will.  I loved Purple team's creative head piece for this round.  And, is that a wheat thin on Pink team's creation??? 

The mess took 6 garbage bags and lots and lots of cleaning wipes!  My vacuum jingled for days with the stray sprinkles and various bits that had flown about the house.  And, I never want to see a can of whipped cream again!  Nonetheless, the girls had a blast, and we ended the evening with pizzas, games, and birthday cake.  Adult Chef helpers were awarded with a basket set, their apron and a bottle of wine as a thank you.  Judges were given antacid tablets and a dinner gift card.  The party officially ended at 8pm, but kids were here until 10:30pm. Now that's a recipe for a successful event! 

Advice to future kid's Chopped party organizers:
  • Have plenty of food for your main course because you can in no way eat their creations.
  • Rotate the items in the pantry per round, vs. set them out all at the beginning
  • Allow only 5 minutes for Round 1, 10 for Round 2 and 5 for Round 3.  
  • And, by limiting your cooking time, have more fun games to play in-between so there is more time to clean between rounds.  We had scavenger hunts for fake food items, and games outside.