Pizzaiolo and World Pizza Champion Bruno DiFabio will guest judge this Sunday’s episode of “Chopped” on the Food Network. The episode airs at 9 p.m. on February 2.
“Chopped” pits four chefs against one another using a mystery basket of ingredients in three rounds: appetizer, entrée and dessert. After each round, one contestant is eliminated until a final winner is chosen.
DiFabio judged the first-ever pizza episode with rotating judges Amanda Freitag of Empire Diner and Iron Chef American Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter. He owns and operates several award-winning pizzerias, including RéNapoli in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
“It’s a huge honor to be called for the cast for something as big as Food Network,” DiFabio says. “It’s one of Food Network’s biggest shows.”
DiFabio, who has participated in culinary competitions around the globe, says that although he watches the show, it is much more difficult to see in person –– both as a competitor and as a judge. “Obviously, I’m a competitive pizza maker,” he says. “I’m pretty arrogant and I consider myself an international competitor, and I just don’t think I could do it. (The competitors) are set up for disaster. If it hits, it’s gonna hurt. If they don’t make the plate in time, we have to judge based on what’s given to us.”
The 12-hour shoot was true to script and DiFabio offered to make the pizza dough –– including a poolish and a Biga –– used in the mystery baskets as ingredients. “It was great to be able to contribute from a culinary standpoint,” he says. “What’s great about ‘Chopped’ is that pizza dough was an ingredient in the basket, and you’ve given them a beautiful vehicle for delivery, but you’re not sure how they’re going to use it.” Although a full list of ingredients will not be known until the show airs, a few “sneak peek” ingredients include candied mushrooms and salted caramel sauce.
The hardest part of judging the competition? Giving constructive criticism, DiFabio says. “You can’t be scared to crush somebody,” he says. “You’re sitting next to people who have been judging this show for years and are very eloquent. You have to be really, really honest. The hardest part was highlighting the positives and be constructive in your criticism.”
The pizza episode of “Chopped” will re-air Tuesday at 9 p.m. as well. For more information on the show, visit the Food Network web site.