Category Archives: TV shows

Chopped: Judgment Day

I was inspired by Matilda’s “Next Food Network Star” post, so I decided to do my own review on the cooking show I happen to watch on an almost nightly basis. I blame my husband for getting me started, but by now we’ve both found ourselves sucked into the “love to hate it” vortex that is the Food Network’s “Chopped”. If you are not familiar with the show, the gist is as follows:

Ted Allen. This shit is serious.

Ted Allen, the food fashionista first made known by Queer Eye, hosts this hour long competition where four chefs vie to be the Chopped Champion and take home the glory and ten thousand smackaroos.  There are three rounds, appetizers, entrees, and desserts,  and one person is eliminated after every round. There is a panel of three judges, usually successful chefs (I guess) who I’ve never seen or heard of before Chopped (except for Aaron Sanchez, whom I’ve seen in commercials for queso fresco. I know it’s him because the way he says “QUE-so Frrrrrrrrrresco” is so unforgettable). They rate the dishes based on presentation, taste, and creativity.  The clincher in Chopped is the basket. The Chopped basket holds the secret ingredients which each contestant must use successfully each round, and will contain anything from gummy worms to goat brains.

So that’s it essentially. They give four chefs some absurd ingredients and 20 mins to dazzle them with flavors. The parts that are so comically delicious about “Chopped” to my husband and I are the editing and the stereotypes. The “Chopped” producers seem to want to get across each chef’s unique culinary vision as well, as long as it can be neatly expressed in one or two sentences and repeated ad nauseum throughout the episode and at completely random times. Whether it’s “I studied in France” or “I used to be a drug addict” or “I’m a lesbian whose cousin has breast cancer”, you will hear nothing from the contestant that does not relate directly to this their relevant feature or their dish. It will come up when they are running out of time. “I waited to cook my fish til the very last minute, but I’m a recovering gambling addict so I love to take risks.” Ok, I made that up, but you get the idea, right? The best is during the judging panel.

If you can’t take the heat…wear shorts like the guy on the end.

Inevitably one or more of the judges will find fault with a chef’s dish. Either the execution was lacking or they didn’t adequately incorporate the jawbreakers and squid ink into the appetizer. The scene will often play out as follows:

Judge: “I found your use of citrus to be very overwhelming in this dish.”

Chef: “Well, after my grandmother was bludgeoned to death by a baby, excessive sourness seemed somehow appropriate.”

Judges: “…..”

When it comes to reality shows, I tend to blame the producers for making the contestants seem totally unhinged and disassociated from what is going on around them. I imagine the heavy editing cut out the part where men in black suits encircled the contestant, shining maglites in her face and demanding to know why there’s sadness in her eyes. On the other hand, some of the chefs seem to embrace the “wear your life story like it’s going out of style” party line.  The chefs that irk us the most are probably those from New Orleans, excuse me, NAH LINS. AND DON’T EVER SAY IT OTHERWISE, YANKEE SCUM!

I get it, they are from a beautiful, diverse, and culturally vibrant city that has experienced a great deal of hardship and obscurity. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the place you are from and wanting to represent it. But it can make for shitty TV! It’s just so predictable. Stirring mascarpone into some almond butter? Please talk about how Katrina displaced your son’s family. It is sad, it was a terrible tragedy, but the way it is just hammered at you while the chefs are braising venison butt makes it feel more exploitative than poignant.”Chopped” would make for a sensational drinking game.  Determine each contestant’s “identity” during the introduction section then drink every time they make reference to it. Heavy drinkers, keep your eye on the lesbians and former drug addicts.

The final word.

And then there are the judges. Look, these folks obviously know what they are talking about. They know when meats are properly cooked, they know how to prepare all sorts of exotic fruits and grains, most of which I’ve never heard of, much less tasted. So, I must rely heavily on what the judges say about each meal to get a sense of what the chefs created. They usually seem pretty spot on, though they can differ wildly in their expectations and preferred treatments. One day, it’s a sign of the chef’s laziness to put an ingredient on the plate in its natural form. The next, it’s a sign of having confidence in the ingredient. If I were ever to compete on this show, I would be paralyzed by indecision, knowing too well it could go either direction. (Then again, I can barely make palatable food using mainstream ingredients, so who the hell would put me on “Chopped”?) Though, I would know to steer clear of lentils, because everybody fucks those up.

Overall, it’s a fun show that appeals both to the culinarily minded (my husband) and the not so much (me). He likes to watch to see what surprising food combinations will be concocted, and I like to watch to see what disgusting health violations contestants will make. (My favorite was the Israeli soldier who cut himself and was bleeding profusely but who continued to make tuna rolls without gloves.) We both like to watch to make fun of the absurd use of stereotypes.

Can’t contain this dish.

 

Are you a fan? Do you disagree with my assessment? Any other observations I left out? Leave a comment! PLEASE! LEAVE A COMMENT! I’M NOT DESPERATE!

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Culinary, Mondays, TV shows

A Culinary Point of View™: My Next Food Network Star Application

We all want to be this “Guy”


Has anyone else been watching the Next Food Network Star and thought, “hell, I could do that”! Oh, everyone? Ok. Well that’s because the Next Food Network Star is a culinary competition in which culinary prowess, knowledge, or experience are not required. What do you need to win? A Culinary Point of View™ and some guidance from one of the Food Network’s top-notch mentors, Iron Chef and probable adulterer Bobby Flay, rumored nymphomaniac and real-life bobble-head Giada De Laurentiis , and my favorite crabapple, Alton Brown.

The esteemed culinary mentors

But as we’ve seen from season after season of the show, finding your own Culinary Point of View™ isn’t that easy. Because your Culinary Point of View™ has to simultaneously reflect your “true voice” and be “responsive to criticism” from Bob and the Sooze. And what Bob and the Sooze want depends on the week, the season, and possibly whatever chemicals are laced in their self-tanner.

For example, while Bob and the Sooze loved Ippy’s authentic Hawaiian style at the beginning of the season, now they’ve decided that he’s too “laid-back”. Isn’t that like accusing someone from Minnesota as being too nice? That’s what Hawaii is about, guys. That’s called Hawaiian style. Oh, you want him to be his authentic self, but in a more frenetic way? That’s helpful, thanks.

Ippy’s got too much Aloha

Or how about when they eliminated previous favorite Emily for having a mediocre week and kept Giada’s “fiery hot Latina” Martita? The same Martita who finished her promo 30 seconds early and instead of trying to fill the time smiled wide-eyed at the judges for 30 Seconds. Of. Dead. Air. Oh, you didn’t want them to even try to do the challenge this week, Bob and the Sooze? I’m sure if you had told Emily what you wanted she could stand in awkward and confused silence for even longer than 30 seconds!

Martita, pretending like nobody can see her. And it worked!

The rampant discrepancies and conspiracy-like eliminations are almost making me think that winners and losers are decided by a complicated calculus of Network need, focus groups, demographic pull, and the aforementioned toxic self-tanner, instead of the actual challenges themselves. There, I’ve said it. The Next Food Network Star may be rigged.

This isn’t going to stop me from applying for next season. As some of you already know, I like to cook. I make salad dressing from scratch! And bread! And I soak my own beans! In Food Network parlance, I’m not a occasionally better than average home cook- I’m self-taught with a unique Culinary Point of View™. And the fact that I can’t tell you the difference between a hollandaise and béarnaise doesn’t matter. Because my ignorance is relatable! Who wants to learn how to cook from someone who knows interesting information about food when I can add a pouch of powdered ranch dressing to a casserole and tell stories about my Nan? That’s right, nobody.

The following are real questions from the Next Food Network Star application. I can’t make this stuff up.

Complete this sentence: If I were an ingredient, I would be…….

How can I answer this without it becoming a sexual innuendo? Um, salt? Because it’s in everything? Damn it, that doesn’t work. Okay, how about tomatoes? Because of the way their taut skin bursts in your mouth? Never mind. Breadcrumbs? Because they are getting old? They make everything crunchy when submerged in hot oil? Ugh, I give up.

Is there a non-perverted way to answer this question? People aren’t food, after all.

Unless……if I were an ingredient I would be Soylent Green. Because Soylent Green IS PEOPLE! IT’S PEOPLE! And there’s nothing sexy about that.

What is your unique Culinary Point of View™?

I’m not sure what to put here. I’m guessing that my real Culinary Point of View™, food that your kids won’t want to eat isn’t going to fly with the Food Network. And shows about Healthy! Delicious! Organic! Foods! That your kids WILL eat! are often a joke. (Case in point, when Nikki served a “kid-friendly Kale smoothie” to a group of gagging 10 year olds.) Kids are crazy. Some things they like, some things they don’t. Sure they are often more picky than many adults, but their list of likes and dislikes are impossible to generalize. My son loves Kale chips and hates pizza. My daughter could eat Fettuccini Alfredo for every single meal of her life but will not drink a glass of chocolate milk. She likes cashews, he likes almonds. See what I mean? It’s a boring show idea, because there is no “kid food” and that’s why these contestants never win.

Bob and the Sooze: The Orange Masterminds

Okay, here’s another idea for a Culinary Point of View™. How about The Boozy Chef? I’ll focus exclusively on recipes requiring the hard stuff and drink the leftovers as I cook. How about Grand Marnier French Toast, or Hooch strawberry salad dressing? Or what about potatoes two ways? I’ll just put some potatoes in the oven to roast and drink some vodka. I have a feeling the Sooze is going to love this one.

Unfortunately, I drank so much prepping my recipes that I can’t pull it together to fill out all ELEVEN pages of the application. So nobody will ever know what kind of role I generally play in groups, what topics are off limits to me at a dinner party, or other highly relevant food-related information. Maybe I’ll work on finding my adaptable authentic voice in the meantime.

What’s your unique Culinary Point of View™?

2 Comments

Filed under Culinary, Humor, TV shows

Hey Buffalo Breath

Do you have one of those things from your early childhood that has remained firmly planted in your psyche, but no one else seems to have held onto? I sure as shit do. It’s called “Out of This World”. Come on! You remember Evie, and her charismatic mother, Donna? Please, tell me you remember this show!

A show permanently etched into my subconscious.

“Out of This World” was on the air from 1987 until 1991, according to the IMDB page. A four year run isn’t that bad for a show, particularly from that period, right? I’m also guessing the show had syndicated reruns. The show stars Maureen Flanigan as Evie, a half-human, half-alien adolescent just trying to live as a normal teenager and get through pubescence with some dignity intact. Also, she has some pretty awesome powers like the ability to freeze time, and teleport. She can also “gleep” things into existence with some strenuous blinking. The show always presented bizarre and comical scenarios, quirky over-the-top characters, and totally gnarly 80’s style. The hair-do’s alone are worth checking it out for.   So why, you might ask, would a silly sitcom from my early childhood still remain so well integrated into my mind? I DON’T FUCKING KNOW! But it is. At least once a day I find myself singing “Hey Buffalo Breath, is that what they call you?”  Watch the following clip if you’d like to know to what this refers:

I rarely meet anyone who remembers “Out of This World”. The most I’ve ever gotten is tame acknowledgment and mild confirmation. “Oh, yeaaaah….” This show somehow shaped my childhood and no one else seems to give two shits?! Matilda humors me, but does not seem to ever have been truly moved by the show. Maybe it’s a generational thing, or perhaps I’m just now discovering the oddity that is memory.

I’m not saying by any means that there was something spectacular or unique about “Out of This World”, but it was cute and for whatever reason it was highly entertaining for a 4 year girl. What I really don’t understand is why this show, more than any other from that period in my life,  has taken precedence in my powers of recollection. Sure, I remember Fraggle Rock, but only vaguely. I couldn’t sing the theme for you or remember any specific plots. I remember SOOOO MUCH from “Out of This World”. I remember multiple plot points from episodes and even dialogue. And that fucking buffalo breath song!!! What else could explain my lifelong and pervasive love for all things Burt Reynolds, besides the fact that he’s the voice of the alien absentee father, Troy Garland, who was always channeled through the odd sugar cube pyramid thing?

Donna, Evie, and Burt, errr, I mean Troy.

I can’t explain why “Out of This World” has stuck with me so strongly for so long, but I’ve come to accept that it’s something I have to appreciate by myself and remember it as I saw it as that tiny girl. Watching clips on YouTube does not bring that back. Instead, I find myself cringing and the creeping feeling that what I’m watching is, actually, pretty shitty entertainment. But, oh, how I remember it! Magical! Whimsical! Hilarious! The colors! The zany characters! The anticipation every time Evie brought her forefingers together… Hilarious mayhem was about to ensue!! This show is something I can’t experience again, and it’s not something I will really be able to share with my children. Any attempts would be a sad display of sitting them down in front of a screen for scratchy, blurred clips from a lost generation. I can already picture it. “Their hair looks like french fries.” and “This is the dumbest thing ever.” No! It was wonderful! Damn you, sands of time!

If you have a similar cross to bear, I’d like to hear about it. What cultural anomaly had a notable impact on you, but has faded with the likes of acid-wash jeans and hair kinks?  If only I were Evie, I would gleep those things back for you, and we could have a marathon in our Winnie the Pooh pajamas sitting on the shag carpet!

3 Comments

Filed under Fridays, Random, TV shows