Ted Allen adores eggs, ham, cheese and mustard. When they come up, as they tend to in conversation with him, he's nearly reverential.
Allen, host of "Chopped," also hosts Food Network's "America's Best Cook," premiering Sunday, April 13.
"When this was announced, the natural and cranky impulse from some of my friends on social media was, 'Just what we needed -- another cooking competition show,' " Allen says to Zap2it. "This is different. It has a Thunderdome vibe, a crazy-shaped catwalk."
Professional chefs Cat Cora, Tyler Florence, Alex Guarnaschelli and Michael Symon will each a head a team of four home cooks.
The pros encourage and direct the cooks but cannot do the work for them. And that's tough for them to do, Allen says.
"They are in the position of being represented by people who are still only home cooks," Allen says. "And there is a world of difference between a home cook and a professional.
"Seeing them in that position, it makes them ... uncomfortable," he says of the chefs. "They are not supposed to constantly coach their charges: 'Cook the egg that way. Turn the roast over.' "
Allen, who has not gone to culinary school but fantasizes about how wonderful it would be to do so in Italy or France, was not knocking amateur cooks, just noting how much more professional chefs know about food preparation.
"I am not a chef," he says. "I am a very enthusiastic home cook and food writer, and the more years I spend with chefs, the less I emphasize I was a restaurant critic."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"I ordered Indian from my favorite place, Kinara, in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn."
What is always in your refrigerator?
"Many kinds of cheese, particularly Parmesan. My favorite thing in the world is eggs, and my other favorite thing in the world is Dijon. I live for mustard. Ham, which I also live for, and Nueske's in Wisconsin makes the most unbelievably delicious ham."
What is your next project?
"Right now we are talking about the 'Chopped Tournament of Stars'. My next project will be another season of 'Chopped' and shoots 39 episodes, and I am excited. We have made 257 of these shows."
What do you love to cook now?
"Ironically, considering my job on a culinary game show all about speed, I like to stick a pork shoulder in my smoker and let it cook for eight hours. ... I love long, deep, developed flavors. Lately I have really been into polenta because one of my colleagues on 'Chopped,' Scott Conant, cooks polenta for three to four hours and transforms it into this sexy, silky, lush medium."
Photo/Video credit: Food Network