For eight years I was watching Chopped when I could have been watching Guy’s Grocery Games.
Back when we thought it wasn’t cool to like Guy Fieri, I crinkled my nose at GGG. Since then, I’ve grown tired of food snobbery and comfortable just liking what I like. Ironically, hipster culture made the uncool foods, cool. At some point I realized that having seen every episode of Diners, Drive Ins & Dives twice meant that I might actually be a pretty big fan fan.
My obsession with Guy’s Grocery Games began during this pandemic when I randomly flipped on an episode. To my surprise I could not stop watching. Between the contestants I recognized from Diners, Drive Ins & Dives, wacky challenges, and friendly banter, I needed to watch more. And so I did.
A lot more.
Guy Fieri is like the benevolent, mischievous god that presides over Flavortown Market which functions like a bizarro grocery store. The rules and physics are constantly changing. It might even have its own weather system. The products and prices might not reflect any reality we know. . . or it might.
Here are the things that make GGG better than Chopped (and most any other show on food television):
- Guy’s like the most likable, walking dad joke.
- You can catch him walking around the set chatting with contestants and eating stuff off their stations.
- Guy wants the contestants to succeed. He may help contestants find ingredients in the market or grab a replacement if they drop one. If someone speaks English as a second language, he’ll make sure they don’t experience any disadvantages in the challenges. He might remind people to season their dishes or suggest a technique if they’re out of time.
- He roasts Robert Irvine every chance he gets.
- I feel like a bad person saying this, but the worst part of Chopped is the similar type of backstory producers focus on. Chopped contestants rarely say are competing because they love the challenge or to see how well they can do; they usually place their entire self worth on winning Chopped to prove to their parents they are worthy. Honestly it makes me feel really sad.
- On GGG, the contestants are delightfully random and have lots of reasons for competing. You may see celebrity chefs or chefs from Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. I was excited to see Jazz from Jitladala. I was her number one fan after seeing her on DDD. She kicked ass and won her episode. Oh yeah and I love when Michelle Minori competes. She’s amazing.
- Sportsmanship reigns: The contestants treat each other well and lose gracefully. The producers or the contestants don’t do that thing where they bait them into saying something rude about the other person’s dishes.
- The premise of Chopped revolves around chefs finding random ingredients in their boxes. The challenges on GGG are more varied and exciting. The contestants may have to create an international-inspired meal from foods located in aisles one, three, or five or swap grocery carts right before cooking.
- The props: Fair games, giant dice with food names, a claw machine, a giant word pyramid, word scrambles, these are all props that might complicate the challenges.
- The variety and diversity of judges seems better – sure, certain judges that appear more than others, but there’s a more compelling variety of people. You might find Top Chef’s Brian Malarky, Antonio Lofasa and Kristin Kish, Richard Blais, Food Network hosts like Aarti Sequaria, G. Garvin, Robert Irvine and other celebrity chefs like Ming Tsai.
- Second, the judges are kinder and have more fun. On Chopped they put on a serious act where they administer very stern criticisms at contestants who have to prepare a meal with baskets of intestines, malted milk balls, Doritos, and pickled eggs in 20 minutes. On GGG’s, they give balanced critiques of people’s dishes pointing out strengths and suggestions.
- You would think that such a graceful, merciful place where contestants model good sportsmanship and judges issue balanced critiques would be more boring than its counterparts. But it’s not. It’s even more compelling, it’s even more fun. You will want to stay a while.
- And most importantly, you will always feel better leaving Flavortown Market than when you first came.
The only thing I don’t like? The shopping challenge at the end. The winner completed three rounds in a row. Just give them the money!