Perhaps this addiction is rooted in the integrity of the judges, whom I admire immeasurably; whose mere presence draws me like moths to a flame. Perhaps, it's the personalities of the contestants that I find wildly varied; from the sublime to the subversive. There's also the possibly that it is merely the entertainment I derive from my sheer joy of watching others compete. It could be any or all of these reasons that creates the attraction for me, but I have to feel what is truly at the core of my "Chopped" addiction, is the creativity displayed by the ingenuity of the competitors who need to ply their craft under the extreme pressure of working on the fly. Sometimes it is like watching a train wreck in motion, and at other times, sheer art coming to life.
I also have another confession. I never seen a minute of SPIKE TV's "Frankenfood".
What changed my mind to give the show a whirl was when I perused a passage on Frankenfood's website that read "without this sort of adventurous spirit, beloved dishes like the Reuben, chicken and waffles, and chocolate-covered bacon would cease to exist." At that point, I realized all gimmicks aside, the competitive spirit and creative aspects that were in place were similar enough to my favorite show to at least get me to consider tuning in. But what really did the trick was when I found out my buddy, and fellow New Jersey native, Johnny "Johnny Meatballs" DeCarlo, was competing in an episode airing on June 29, 2014 at 10:00 PM EST.
He is a genuinely nice guy who is also quite the character. He can usually be found decked out in dark shades, a black hat of some sort, and a black tee-shirt bearing his "got balls?" logo. Johnny is quick to smile, laugh, and offer a handshake or fist-pump to any and all customers. He is impossibly hard not to like and extremely entertaining. With his thick north-Jersey accent ~ with more than a hint of Bronx and Brooklyn thrown in for good measure ~ a typical conversation may sound something like this:
"Hey, how'd you like some Ricotta on dat meatbawl sub, eh?"
"Hmm? Is it good like that, Johnny?"
"Come on, fugheddaboudit. It's da best ding I got 'ere."
Picture Robert DeNiro meets Joe Pesci, who together, can cook the hell out of a meatball and make it dance in your mouth. That's Johnny Meatballs the Meatball King of New Jersey. And make no mistake, he's all Jersey, through and through.
Since that time, Johnny has carved a niche for himself by rolling thousands and thousands of delicious meatballs, while covering thousands of miles in his food truck. In doing so, he's also garnered quite the following that I am sure will be tuning in to see if he will end up King of Frankenfood or end up in the Spitter Bucket. Either way, I'll be tuned in as well, cheering my friend on this Sunday night in his quest to avoid the infamous Spitter Bucket.
Good luck, Johnny Meatballs.