In the cable television equivalent of a librarian turning into a call girl, Bravo television has reinvented itself. It used to be the channel for quality television centered on the performing arts, now it's a channel filled with people who need their meds refilled (or the dosage upped).
Top Chef continues to be a true contest and incubator for great chefs to get their name out into the world with as little staged drama as possible, so we had (sort of) high hopes for Around The World in 80 Plates. Hopes were dashed.
Here's the premise (tell us if you've heard it before):
Each week a team of chefs are flown to some random city in the world
where they have to perform some type of scavenger hunt. The winning team
gets a secret ingredient to be used the next day when the chefs have to
take over a local restaurant and cook for the locals (who will judge
them on how badly they screwed up their favorite tangine or tapas). The
losing team has to vote one of their members off
the island the team.
how is this a cooking show with chefs? Well, the scavenger hunt part
seems to involve eating and drinking a lot. And then the teams have to
butcher cook the local cuisine. But, as most of the completely clueless chefs
chosen for this show said last night...this isn't about cooking. It's
about winning. It's a mix of The Amazing Race and Survivor with a dash of something else (Top Chef? Three Stooges?) thrown in.
Last evening, we were introduced to the show's hosts -- Aussie heartthrob Curtis Stone and Iron Chef Cat
Cora. Both are adorable and competent, but we know the hosts don't
really do anything. We also met the contestants, most of them mindless or arrogant. Nookie, a chef with the Boston Red Sox, says he
knows he's probably not the best chef, but he thinks he can win. Sai
Pituk from Texas like to pose semi-nude in the tub, and Cheven (Chef
Kevin)'s goal is to manipulate the other players so he can win.
first challenge is a pub crawl, where we watch the chefs down yards of
ale and pounds of black pudding hash. Most of them have never had black
pudding before, which is semi-shocking to hear chefs admit that. As they
run through the streets of London announcing themselves as "drunk
Americans", we wonder what the casting directors were thinking. We're
not sure what competitive eating has to do with a cooking show...until
we're told that the chefs are to cook what they just consumed in mass
By the time the chefs actually make it to the kitchen, we've
lost interest. Especially when they're clearly having issues. Sai, the
naked chef, says that she only cooks Asian cuisine so she opts to work
the front of the house (which is confusing since London restaurants are filled with Asian flavors and influences). Another chef, Chazz, is cracking everyone up by
saying typical "British" phrases like "god save the Queen", "quiddich",
and "crikey". It's a little painful.
When it's time to vote someone off the show,
Nookie throws his teammate Clara under the bus, even though his steak
and kidney pie was the least favorite dish by vote. But, as we heard
many times during the course of the hour -- this is a cooking show
that's not about cooking...at all.