Chefs Antonia Lofaso, Jeff Henderson and Beau MacMillan on Beat The Chefs
Tivo Alert: Beat The Chefs, Aug 23, 9pm (8 central), GSN.
Tune in next week for the premiere of Beat The Chefs, a wildly fun new cooking show debuting on GSN. (I’m in it, of course, but more on that in a minute.) You are going to LOVE this show. There is truly nothing else like it on TV.
Beat The Chefs is a cooking competition that pits ordinary folks against professional chefs. If the amateurs win, they take home $25,000.
OK, here’s where I feel the need to clarify something. When the show was first announced last month, a couple of pea-brained bloggers flippantly compared Beat The Chefs with Bobby Flay’s Throwdown on the Food Network. They were idiots.
One of the amateur teams in their “home kitchen” on Beat The Chefs
Beat The Chefs is the complete opposite of Throwdown. I adore Bobby Flay, I really do. But I’ve never enjoyed that show because it’s driven by ego. He surprises a chef (sometimes a pro), whom he tries to take down and humiliate by cooking a better version of whatever dish that person is known for. Bobby shows up unannounced with his version of a recipe that he’s been practicing and perfecting for weeks. It’s a popular show, but it is an ambush, not a competition.
The audience is awesome. Here’s a snapshot of the bleachers (best seat in the house) behind the critics’ table.
Beat The Chefs is filmed in front of a live studio audience. We invite amateur teams to bring their favorite recipes and compete against a team of pro chefs, who will try to cook a five-star version of the same dish. The stage includes two separate kitchens. One kitchen looks like a standard home kitchen, with typical appliances and tools, dinner table, refrigerator magnets, etc. The other is a professional restaurant-style kitchen with industrial appliances and all the high-tech gear and gadgets of the master chefs.
But here’s the twist: The pros have no idea what the home team is cooking (and, thus, what they will have to create) until the dish is announced live on the show. The chefs then scramble to concoct their own version, on the fly, in the same amount of time that it takes the home cooks to finish theirs. Like I said, it’s the exact opposite of Throwdown.
There are 17 cameras (or more) recording everything that goes on all across the set.
The producers of the show were part of the original teams that created Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Fear Factor, and Deal or No Deal, among others. And if you’ve ever seen Extreme Makeover, you know what’s coming next. Tears. Grab your kleenex. It’s going to get emotional. You will laugh. You will cry. And the food will make you drool. This show is not about egos. It’s about cooking. It’s about family heritage. It’s about relationships. And it’s about having fun in the kitchen, win or lose. Pure and simple. And it all comes down to taste: Whose dish tastes better? It’s an hour-long show, with two amateur teams competing against the chefs in each episode. That means we could potentially give away $50,000 on every show!
The show’s resident chefs are Beau MacMillan, Antonia Lofaso and Jeff Henderson. Beau Mac is the smack-talking executive chef at one of my favorite resorts in America, the Sanctuary on Camelback in Arizona. (And speaking of Bobby Flay, Beau Mac handily defeated Bobby on Iron Chef America.) Antonia is the flirty and fearless chef/owner of Black Market in Studio City. She’s an alum of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and a veteran of Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars. And rounding out the team is Jeff Henderson, the you-don’t-want-to-mess-with-this-guy former executive chef at the famed Bellagio resort in Las Vegas. All three chefs bring unique talents and personalities to the kitchen, and together they form a truly formidable team. (You’ll be able to download the winning recipes, from the pros and home cooks alike, after each show has aired).
Our incredible master of ceremonies is Matt Rogers. He’s hilarious. Seriously. I’ve never met anyone with a quicker wit than this guy. We couldn’t have asked for a better host to guide the show and navigate the antics of both kitchens. You might remember Matt as a finalist on the third season of American Idol. He’s also the host of Coming Home on Lifetime and an occasional correspondent for The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Access Hollywood, and Entertainment Tonight.
My co-critic Christy Jordan
The competition is judged each week by a panel of three critics—and that’s where I come in. The show’s two permanent critics are me and the lovely Christy
Jordan. She and I are joined each week by a celebrity guest critic, such as Eric Roberts, Cristina Ferrare or Diane Ladd. Or, on “Texas Night,” for example, a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Fun, fun, fun. You probably already know this, but Christy Jordan is a very well-known food writer and cookbook author from Alabama. Her blog, Southern Plate, is one of the biggest food blogs in the world, with something like 30 million hits a month. Insane! She’s the yin to my yang on the critics’ panel. She comes from a background of good ol’ Southern home cookin’, whereas I bring to the table my experience as an award-winning food critic who’s been eating at the very best restaurants around the world for the past 20 years. Christy and I butt heads often, although sometimes we surprise each other and agree. In the end, we’re the ones who decide whether the amateurs have beaten the chefs and taken home the $25,000. That’s a lot of pressure, 50 Grand per show! But we never let the prize money get in the way of calling it like we see it.
Trust me. You’re going to LOVE. THIS. SHOW.
Set your Tivo for Thursday, August 23, 9pm (8pm Central), on GSN. If you don’t know what channel that is on your local cable network, you can look it up here. (In Los Angeles, the channels are as follows: Comcast, channel 58; ATT U-verse, channel 173; Time Warner, channel 153; Dish Network, channel 116; Direct TV, channel 233.