Now that I’ve got THAT out of the way…
I think I finally saw the first “reality competition” show that I enjoy – Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. I believe it airs on Sunday evenings, but I recorded it while I was out of town and finally got to watch it this evening. I know, I know…I’m biased. I love cooking, and I love the Food Network, and I watch pretty much any show with Alton Brown. But there are structural reasons why I feel this competition program fares better than the rest.
The first standout is the collection of contestants. It’s rare to see so close a correlation between the entrants and their goal. Every competitor on this show is a real chef – most of whom own and operate at least one high-end restaurant. These are not simply athletic people trying to survive on a deserted island. These are not people who are simply pretty enough to be on camera. These are trained artisans trying to prove which is the best…trained artisan.
What I enjoy the most, however, is the relevance so far of the challenges. No attempts by business students to sell crap out of an Airstream trailer. The first episode consisted of two main events. The first was a test of speedy food prep skills. Chefs had to race between an ingredient station and food prep tables earning points for the quick filleting of fish, frenching of a rack of lamb, and extracting coconut water. Such an activity is straight out of Iron Chef (or a real kitchen for that matter) and practical preparation for competitive cooking. The second challenge was a test of creativity; entrants developed their own recipes for two desserts – one traditional and one with a savory ingredient (squid, tripe, or beef anyone?). Once again, this test was 100% relevant to the goal of the contest. Competitors on Iron Chef are forced to develop recipes on the fly all the time, and quite often from unconventional components like ground beef or sea urchin.
You may not like Iron Chef or cooking, but it’s quite refreshing for me to see a show in this genre which actually seems to prepare it’s contestants for their prize. Give it a shot if you like cooking shows – it’s quite entertaining.
Oh yeah, and pardon my excessive use of alliteration in this post – it’s hard to think of synonyms for “chef” and “competition” while I’m watching TV 🙂