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How "Reality" TV Cooking Shows Get It Wrong

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Jacques Pépin, a member of The Daily Meal Council, is a celebrated chef, cooking teacher, cookbook author and television personality, dean of special programs at the International Culinary Center, and winner of a James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. His most recent book is New Complete Techniques.

I’ve been a chef for nearly 60 years. I love and respect my trade, and I still love to cook, mostly with other chef friends and my family. It is hard work to be behind the stove 16 hours a day in a restaurant kitchen, and the pressures at mealtime can be unbearable. Sometimes in those stressful conditions, hot tempers flare up and voices are raised. Conventionally, the situation abates as soon as mealtime is over, and more often than not ends in a friendly discussion over a glass of wine or a beer. As an apprentice, I was kicked in the rear end a few times, but it was tough love more than nastiness. These are the conditions of the trade, and anyone who works in a restaurant is well aware of them.

In the last few years, there have been a flurry of new TV cooking shows, so-called “reality” shows, that portray the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light, and I believe it is a disservice to our trade and to young people who want to go into this business. The worst offenders insult and humiliate their crew, cursing and swearing, with every other word a bleeped expletive. The crew, often unkempt and untidy, look at the chef defiantly and seem to be terrorized and belligerent at the same time. The process of cooking, the process of combining ingredients together to create a dish, is never seen on these shows.

The process of cooking, the process of combining ingredients together to create a dish, is never seen on these shows. Nor is the process of tasting, adding an ingredient, then tasting again and commenting ever shown. Dishes appear from somewhere, and the tasting is only done by the dictator chef at the end of the show, and only in the context of disagreeing, conflicting, or contesting the taste, with the goal of mortifying his cooks, not helping them. This approach is certainly not conducive to creating good-tasting dishes.

I have asked friends many times, “What are the best fundamental dishes of your life?” Invariably, their response goes back to food prepared by a mother, a grandmother, a father, an aunt, or some other relative or friend. A main ingredient of those preparations is the love with which they are prepared. Those early tastes remain with you for the rest of your life. The Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang said that patriotism is nothing more than the love of dishes you had as a child. Certainly, in times of stress you go back to the essential dishes of your youth. As those young soldiers in Afghanistan would certainly agree, Mom’s apple pie, Boston baked beans, or a lobster roll are among the dishes they crave or dream about. In Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, the book’s main protagonist, Dr. Urbino, doesn’t know anything about cooking, but when he eats and entertains in his home, he equates the goodness of the food with how much love was put into the dish. He would reject a dish, saying, “this food was cooked without love.” It is a criticism that is closer to the truth than most people realize.

Julia Child used to say that you have to be happy when you cook for the food to be good, and you also have to be happy in the eating and sharing of the food with family and friends. Otherwise the gastric juices will not do their job and you won’t digest the food properly. I agree with her assessment. It is impossible to enjoy food when you're angry and tense.

In these reality shows, the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food. There is disarray and pandemonium in these kitchens, as well as in the dining rooms. No one seems to agree on anything, and there are ongoing clashes between the employees, without much evidence of what makes a kitchen work. For the good of his or her restaurant, the chef should be a role model, an educator who probes and advises his cooks, rather than embarrasses them publicly. A good kitchen is quiet most of the time. It is disciplined, well structured, and clean. People who cook there are dedicated and work together. Teamwork is extremely important, as all parts of the kitchen have to work on many of the same dishes. This requires them to work as one unit, like in a symphony when all the parts come together at the end. It is not exciting or dramatic enough for TV.

The so-called “reality” cooking shows are, if anything, totally unreal. A real, well-run professional kitchen has dignity and order. If cameras went into Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, or Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, they would see a kitchen that is well organized, with a contented, dedicated, hard-working staff. The cruel rivalry and conflict depicted in Hell’s Kitchen may be good for ratings, but it is unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade. In my opinion, nothing good enough to eat can be concocted under such conditions. I’m going back to my mother’s leek and potato soup and apple galette.


The Definitive Ranking of Cooking Competition Shows

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Cooking competition shows are like the female equivalent to a professional football games. Instead of Monday Night Football, it’s Monday Night MasterChef. Sport fans scream at the TV when that perfect pass is fumbled and throw fits when their team loses. Cooking competition fans yell when somebody drops the secret ingredient on the floor and are on the verge of tears when their favorite competitor is sent home.

So here’s the definitive ranking of cooking competition shows, as determined by avid viewers who may or may not recreate multiple versions of these shows in their apartments just for fun:

11. Cutthroat Kitchen

Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Every episode of this series seems like pure torture for the poor contestants. With sabotages like miniature kitchens and DIY aluminum foil pans, the concept of cooking delicious looking food is out this window.

Not only is this show cruel and unusual punishment for the chefs, but the winner ends up walking away with little to no money because they spent it all on sabotaging other competitors. Now that’s just depressing.

10. Worst Cooks in America

Photo courtesy of twocentstv.com

As much as we love Anne Burrell, this show is just too painful to watch. I mean, how can somebody possibly be that awful at cooking?

9. The Next Food Network Star

Photo courtesy of thetasteawards.com

You can tell who the finalists are going to be about 45 minutes into the first episode. Sadly, the majority of winners in the past 11 seasons have not gone onto Food Network fame.

Believe it or not, this is where Guy Fieri made it big after his season 1 win which may be one of the only positive endings this show has had.

8. Cupcake Wars

Photo courtesy of cupcakeproject.com

First of all, this is not a war. It’s a show about baking cupcakes. The French judge is overly harsh and makes me want to cry for the poor bakers and the host cracks the cheesiest jokes possible that make me die a little on the inside.

Overall, the cupcakes look delicious and the displays in the end are impressive, but the show tends to be more annoying than entertaining.

7. Holiday Baking Championship

Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Nothing will get you in the Christmas spirit quite like this show does. It’s festive, fun, and will make you want to bake a spread of Christmas cookies, gingerbread houses, and yule logs.

If you like HBC, then you’ll love Food Network’s spin off series — Spring Baking Championship and Halloween Baking Championship.

6. Hell’s Kitchen

Photo courtesy of tlciscreative.com

This show brings out Gordon Ramsey’s alter ego, who enjoys swearing and screaming until he can no longer speak. You can hardly understand what is going on when every other word is *BEEP* this and *BEEP* that. Not to mention, the chefs make the same three dishes show after show. Give me some variety, people.

Overall, I just get major anxiety every time I watch the show, but hey — if you enjoy yelling, swearing, beef wellington, and tears, this is definitely the show for you.

5. Iron Chef America

Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

This puppy is the original gangsta of all cooking competition shows. It’s extremely cheesy, but in the best way possible. Alton Brown is witty and the Iron Chefs are badass af.

When you’re looking for a Food Network throwback, pull up a chair and in the words of the chairman — “with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my Uncle… ALE CUISINE!”

4. Chopped

Photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com

Food Network has produced some spin off series, but nothing can top the original Chopped. It’s fast-paced fun with a host who is the most likeable dude around. I mean, what’s not to love about Ted Allen?

Not to mention seasons 1 and 2 are now available on Netflix. Brb, gotta go get my binge watch on.

3. MasterChef Junior

Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Watch this show and you’ll feel exponentially worse about yourself and your culinary capabilities. 10 year old kids whip up stunning beef wellingtons and perfect crème brulee in just 60 minutes without breaking a sweat while I’m over here burning my instant ramen.

2. MasterChef

Photo courtesy of world4freetv.com

This show pins amateur chefs against each other in entertaining pastry and savory challenges full of unexpected twists. The set and cinematography are incredible and Graham Elliot and Gordon Ramsay are some of the most lovable judges on television.

If you’re a huge MasterChef fan, make sure to visit Graham Elliot’s restaurant, GE Bistro, next time you’re in the Chicago area.

1. Top Chef

Photo courtesy of emmys.com

This Emmy and James Beard Award winning show is all about food, food, and more food. Say goodbye to the usual annoying drama of reality TV competition shows and hello to pure culinary genius.

Make sure to check out the newest season, Top Chef Road Trip, premiering this December on Bravo. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Channel Ten's new cooking show Recipes to Riches for 2013 in doubt

CHANNEL 10, having canned a number of its new shows this year, now has its 2013 big hope, Recipe to Riches, is under a cloud.

Channel Ten's 2013 big hope, new cooking reality show Recipes to Riches is already facing major problems. Source:Supplied

ONE of Channel 10’s biggest shows for 2013 - Recipe to Riches - is under a cloud.

TV insiders say the cooking-based reality show has been beset by delays and is struggling to find contestants.

The reality show features home cooks battling for $200,000 in cash and the chance to get their recipe sold by a leading supermarket chain.

Ten was reportedly set to launch the big budget cooking show at the start of next year - up against rival Seven’s My Kitchen Rules.

Insiders say that plan is looking increasingly shaky.

My Kitchen Rules and Ten’s MasterChef Australia begin production at least six months before they go to air.

Ten has just over four months before a proposed Recipe to Riches launch date.

A source close to Recipe to Riches says producer FremantleMedia recently delayed production for at least six weeks.

The future of around 20 production staff is on hold.

It is understood that Ten is yet to sign a host or link up with any supermarket chain sponsor.

“You can count the number of people who have applied to be on the show on one hand,” the insider says.

Ten has labelled claims of trouble with Recipe to Riches as “nonsense” and 𠇌ompletely wrong”.

“Recipe to Riches will be part of Ten’s 2013 line-up,” Ten spokesperson Neil Shoebridge says.

“The production schedule has not been confirmed – which…is not unusual at this stage in a new show’s development.

“We are very happy with the number of people who want to appear on Recipe to Riches.

“The chatter that production has been �layed’ by six weeks is absolute rubbish.

“Where we are in terms of hiring a host and signing sponsors is confidential.”

Ten can’t afford to delay Recipe to Riches. Any hold-up would force a clash with their other cooking shows MasterChef Australia and MasterChef: The Professionals.

“They (Ten) wanted to kick-start the ratings year with Recipe to Riches,” the insider says.


Reality shows send a bad message and help to create a cult of instant celebrity. These programmes s…

Yes because…

Reality shows send a bad message and help to create a cult of instant celebrity. These programmes suggest that anyone can become famous just by getting on TV and “being themselves”, without working hard or having any particular talent. Kids who watch these shows will get the idea that they don’t need to study hard in school, or train hard for a regular job.

No because…

Reality TV provides an important social glue. Once upon a time there were only a few television channels, and everybody watched the same few programmes. The sense of a shared experience helped to bind people together, giving them common things to talk about at work and school the next day – “water cooler moments”. As the number of channels increased hugely, this sense of shared experience was lost and our sense of community went with it. Big reality TV programmes have brought that sense of shared experience back, as viewers from all social groups follow the twists and turns of each series together.


Crazy Delicious: How to make the BBQ Watermelon - viewers crave smoked meat creation!

Channel 4‘s cooking competition Crazy Delicious has now been released for all the world to enjoy, released to Netflix on Wednesday, June 24th. The series sees cooks turn ordinary meals into extraordinary culinary creations.

Since they’re judged by three of the world’s most imaginative chefs, every contestant has a tough challenge to impress each one of them with a unique take on a traditional dish.

Episode 4 of Crazy Delicious saw Joseph re-creating a grilled meat recipe, using a watermelon instead. So here’s how to make the crazy delicious BBQ Watermelon.

BBQ watermelon on Crazy Delicious, Channel 4

BBQ Watermelon ingredients

For the jerk BBQ watermelon, Joseph used a big watermelon and a spicy jerk sauce.

He said the inspiration for the dish came from his childhood as he grew around that particular cuisine.

How Joseph made it: Step by step

Step 1: Joseph peeled the whole watermelon, leaving only the juicy and red flesh of the melon.

MasterChef 2021 | Trailer - BBC Trailers

Step 2: Then he used a jerk spice mixture to rub all of the watermelon.

Step 3: Finally, he put the watermelon to grill and smoke on the BBQ.

BBQ watermelon on Crazy Delicious, Channel 4

Make your own grilled watermelon at home

This recipe for grilled watermelon slices from Delish requires only 10 min preparation and 25 cooking time.

Ingredients: You’ll need the juice and zest of 1 lime, 1/4 c. honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 watermelon, cut into 1″ thick slices, mint leaves and sea salt for serving.

Step 1: Heat your grill or a pan to medium heat. In a bowl, mix together lime juice and zest, honey and olive oil.

Step 2: Rub the lime juice over the watermelon slices and place them on the grill. Cook until the slices are grilled from both sides.


Reality Tv Revisited

MasterChef US season 10 features MasterChef judges Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sanchez and Joe Bastianich testing the culinary skills of amateur chefs from the USA with a number of challenges and dishes to prepare, with those failing to impress being sent home.

MasterChef US Season 10 aired May 29 to ongoing, 2019 on Fox Network, there were 20 contestants and the prize for the winner was $250,000, the MasterChef trophy and training at restaurants owned by the three judges.

The post will be updated weekly as contestants are eliminated and as information is made available.

Bri Baker was a Cocktail Server from Dallas, Texas. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 20 after she served raw salmon to the judges after burning her first attempt.

After Masterchef, Bri has been showcasing mouthwatering food on her social media for The Plating Queen.

Deanna Colon was a Vocal Coach from Simi Valley, California. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 3 after she served a scallop dish with a strange flavour combination due to the salad and mashed potato combination.

After Masterchef, Deanna has returned to her previous career as a singer and vocal coach. She promotes body positivity on her social media and co-hosts a podcast called 2 Plus Sized Divas.

Dorian Hunter was a Creeler from Cartersville, Georgia. Dorian Hunter is the MasterChef season 10 winner. Her final menu of scallops, short rib and lemon blueberry tart was well received by the judges.

After MasterChef, Dorian will take up training at the restaurants of the three judges. She plans to start working on her cookbook now her win is public and to use her winnings to contribute towards opening a restaurant.

Evan Tesiny was a Sales Coordinator from Brooklyn, New York. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 7 after his Tarte Titan didn't have enough caramel in it.

After MasterChef, Evan appears to have returned to his career in sales.

Fred Chang was a Revenue Analyst from Redondo Beach, California. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 17 after he served raw meat to the judges. Gordon reveals that he had spoken to Christina Rossi about work experience for him.

After MasterChef, Fred writes food blog Freddy's Harajuku , where he posts food recipes.

Jamie Hough was a Fisherman from Pawleys Island, South Carolina.He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 19 after his sausage dish failed to impress the judges.

After MasterChef, Jamie appears to have returned to his career as a fisherman, he has done a private dining experience and he posts regular fish dishes on Instagram.

Kenny Palazzolo was a Carpenter from Boston, Massachusetts. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 3 after his scallop and mushroom dish was branded ugly by the judges despite tasting great.

After MasterChef, Kenny has plans to record his own cooking show Live, Laugh and Cook Italian with Kenny Palazzolo to be shown on local access TV.

Keturah King was a Freelance Writer from London, England. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 11 after her steak was cut badly and was let down by a boring salad. Her smores dessert also failed to impress the judges.

After MasterChef, Keturah plans to release a cookbook and launch her own restaurant. She also plans to have pop up dining experiences.

Kimberly White was a Shoe Designer from New York City. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 5 after her mushroom sauce is branded terrible and is compared to cottage cheese by the judges.

Liz Linn was an Events Consultant from Durand, Michigan. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 9 after she was teamed with Michael and communication broke down leading to raw dough, raw fish and poor meatballs.

After MasterChef, Liz is currently offering private chef services, cookery classes and catering services.

Micah Yaroch was a Kitchen Porter from Grand Rapids, Michigan.He was eliminated from MasterChef in season 10 episode 21 after he under cooked both lamb and sea bass.

After the show, he plans to go on the road, travel and continue to grow as a chef after returning from the show and facing eviction. Please consider donating to his GoFundMe page to show your support.

Michael Silverstein was a Real Estate Flipper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 9 after he was teamed with Liz and communication broke down leading to raw dough, raw fish and poor meatballs.

After the show, he features Keto recipes and more on his website and has a Youtube channel here.

Nick DiGiovanni was a College Student from Barrington, Rhode Island. Nick reached the MasterChef season 10 final and came in third place.

After MasterChef, Nick revealed he plans to take Joe up on his offer of being his mentor on an Instagram comment.

Noah Sims was a Septic Service Technician from Epworth, Georgia. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 23 after his under cooked risotto failed to impress the judges.

After MasterChef, Noah is Director of Marketing at Shamrock Septic Service.

Renee Rice was a Receptionist from Ada, Oklahoma. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 14 after her cheesecake base fell apart and had the texture of crumbs.

Sam Haaz was an Attorney from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 13 after his snapper was overcooked and his dessert lacked flavour.

Sarah Faherty was a Former Army Interrogator from San Diego, California. Sarah was the MasterChef season 10 runner up, coming in second place.

Shari Mukherjee was a Stay-at-Home Mom from Rochester, Minnesota. She was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 22 after she struggled with a scallop dish and her team served overcooked duck.

After MasterChef, Shari appears to have returned to being a stay at home mom and her previous business where she sells custom macarons and baked goods.

Subha Ramiah was a R&D Director from West Nyack, New York. He was eliminated in MasterChef season 10 episode 22 after serving a raw langoustine dish and his team served overcooked duck.

After MasterChef, Subha told a fan on Instagram to "stay tuned" about his next steps in cooking after MasterChef.

Wuta Onda was an English Teacher from Bronx, New York. He was eliminated from MasterChef season 10 episode 15 after his macarons were far too sweet for the judges.

After MasterChef, Wuta appears to be returning to his previous career as a teacher.


What happens during the bakes?

A lot. First, contestants are shuttled from their hotel to the tent, and like we see on screen, do two different bakes on Saturday and one on Sunday. Like on Trading Spaces, contestants wear the same clothes each day for continuity.

There&rsquos a crew of 50 or so behind the scenes. If a contestant wants to take something out of the oven, they have to let a producer know first so one of the six camera crews can capture it.

While they might spend a lot of time staring into the oven, the contestants &ldquoare encouraged to take half-hour breaks when their baking schedule allows,&rdquo the Telegraph reports.

The show&rsquos chief home economist Faenia Moore (The Guardian reports her title is &ldquoan anachronistic hangover from postwar attempts to bring rigour and respectability to school cookery lessons&rdquo), who&rsquos basically in charge of the food producers, observes the contestants and reports back to producers about problems so Mel and Sue can talk with them.

Moore&rsquos three-person team of producers is responsible for all the food and equipment, and they work out of a prep kitchen adjacent to the tent (contestants aren&rsquot allowed in). The team starts acquiring ingredients two days before each episode&rsquos shoot, in part because they have to remove all brand labels.

If the contestants change their recipe or need a new ingredient, the show has someone waiting at a nearby store.

Filming can take up to 16 hours, in part because the food porn shots take so long. One contestant estimated that two-thirds of their time in the tent is not actual baking: &ldquoThe rest of the time is spent doing &lsquobeauty shots&rsquo of the cakes, the contestants or the judges.&rdquo

Why is everything so clean during judging? After the contestants finish baking, producers and production assistants rush in to clean everything while the contestants relax outside. (Just one person, Iva, does the dishes, according to The BBC, and it&rsquos all done by hand in two sinks.) Then the contestants return to have their work judged.


From inedible food to excessive waste, shocking cooking show secrets revealed

A post on social media site Reddit asked people who have worked on the set of food shows to reveal the strangest things they’ve seen while working.

And the responses didn’t disappoint.

According to user ‘Elroypaisley’ who worked on a daytime talk show with daily cooking segments, most the hard work is done by a food stylist behind the scenes.

Bobby Flay in the "Iron Chef America" kitchen. (AP File Photo)

“Most of the food is either A) not edible (under cooked chicken, just browned on the outside to look good for camera or sprayed with shining spray to make it look glossy) or B) Eaten by the crew,” wrote the redditor.

“The most enlightening fact, for me, was that many of the chefs have no idea what the recipe is, what they are cooking when they arrive, or how it’s made. A food stylist shows up two hours before taping, having been up the night before all night making the ‘beauty dishes’ — these are the dishes the camera will take shots of to show what the final product looks like. Then the stylist lays out every ingredient, every bowl, every tool that will be needed.

“The chef arrives, does hair/makeup and comes to set where the stylist briefs them. ‘Chef, today you’re making such and such. These are the ingredients for the reduction sauce, etc’. The chef goes over the recipe a few times, then we go live and they are the expert.”

User ‘Landlubber77’ worked as a production intern on a food network and said the dish prepared on screen by the chef isn’t usually the one featured in the fancy photos.

“When they want to stage shots of just the food on its own, the ‘hero shot’, they have an intern make a duplicate of the meal (doesn’t matter if it’s undercooked inside because nobody is gonna eat it) which just has to look good on the surface. They then spray it with an aerosol can of some ungodly preservative to make it ‘stay.’

Food stylists can spend hours prepping dishes that aren't even meant to be eaten. (iStock)

“You could come back a year later and it would still be camera ready.”

When it comes to shows such as MasterChef, ‘absinthevisions’ wrote that “each dish can be made several times so there is a lot of waste”.

“If it’s a contest style show, the judges don’t eat the version that you see cooked and plated. That version is thrown away and a new version is cooked specifically for them to eat. Then they take 2-3 bites from a plate and throw the rest away.”

If you’ve ever seen a cooking show where the chef is given a special ingredient at the start of the show and you’ve been amazed by how quickly they brainstormed and executed their dish, well . don’t be amazed.

“My brother was a sous chef for his (at the time) boss on a popular food competition show,” wrote Reddit user ‘LadyofRivendell’.

“He said the secret ingredient was revealed a few hours prior to filming and the chefs sat down with their sous chefs and made plans ahead.”

But the best story in the thread was from a caterer called ‘Astrochef12’ who was hired in the early 2000s by The Oprah Winfrey Show to help make a number of different celebrities’ favorite recipes for the studio audience.

“I made pancakes (I think) for Harry Connick Jr, Gwenyth Paltrow’s Miso crusted-Cod and most famously Tom Cruise’s Grandmother’s spaghetti carbonara,” they wrote.

“Usually I would be the one to go to the show with a few cooks warm everything up and plate some 360 tasting sized portions for the audience. The food would be served during a commercial break in two and a half minutes, so the pressure was pretty intense.

“Tom Cruise’s spaghetti carbonara sticks in my memories because the call came in during a lull and a bunch of staff was on vacation. We would get the call and have to have the food ready for taping that same week, so it was just me on the job.

“They requested enough spaghetti carbonara for 360 guests, plus the Mise en Place (prepped ingredients) for Tom to demo it himself on camera. They also sent the recipe, which had been dictated by an assistant and emailed.

“When I read the recipe I went into apoplexy as his recipe was flawed . He had stated that the beaten eggs be poured into the sauteed olive oil/bacon/anchovies then stirred into the pasta (which would result in scrambled eggs). Normally the eggs are mixed in after the pasta is added, then you toss everything around and the eggs, cheese, olive oil and bacon fat make a very rich sauce.

“So I am faced with a dilemma. Do I make the recipe his way so that the audience gets the same messed up preparation or do I make it the right way and show up the biggest star ever on a major client’s very popular show?

“The populist in me won. Screw Tom Cruise.

“I packed everything up and sent it off to the show with another event chef. The chef calls me as soon as they were done: Sure enough, they roll out the demo setup and he (Tom Cruise) starts sauteing the olive oil, garlic, anchovies and bacon til everything melts down. He adds the eggs and . scrambled eggs! He’s like ‘Uh oh! That’s not right?’ and Oprah reaches under the cart and pulls out a bowl of my spaghetti carbonara and he says, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what it is supposed to look like!’


Re-hiring chef Robert Irvine on the Food Network after finding out he lied on his resume

Chef Robert Irvine rose to acclaim on Food Network thanks to his winning personality as host of Dinner: Impossible and years of experience in the culinary world. In 2008, Irvine gained exposure of a different kind after it was leaked that his resume had been significantly fabricated.

The BBC reported that the inaccuracies in his resume included a British knighthood, ownership of a castle in Scotland, friendship with Prince Charles, and the chance to cook for four United States presidents. The Food Network dismissed Irvine from Dinner: Impossible and replaced him with Michael Symon. Audiences didn't seem to agree that Symon was up to the job, however, and Irvine returned to host the show once again despite the publicity debacle.

While the Food Network may not have cared much about credentials, the network's writers might not have been so easy to forgive. Irvine's new missions on Dinner: Impossible set him up for failure. He reportedly showed up to a set without equipment or appliances, so it was almost impossible to meet the demands of each show. Sometimes lying to your co-workers really doesn't work out so well.


Behind The Scenes Of The Cutest Cooking Show On Television

Mix precocious 10-year-olds with a famously volatile host and add large knives and open flames. How MasterChef Junior's recipe for trainwreck TV instead became a heartwarming twist on the cooking competition show.

The 12-year-old boy standing in front of Gordon Ramsay has just started to cry. He&rsquos wearing a floral bow tie, a plaid collared shirt tucked neatly into slim black jeans, and a bright white apron tied at the waist with his name embroidered on it in all caps, &ldquoLOGAN,&rdquo along with the logo of the show on which he is one of the final eight contestants, MasterChef Junior. His two front teeth are gapped, and his sandy blond hair is parted way over on one side. When he grows up, Logan wants to be an oceanographer, an astronaut, a chef, and a garbageman. The restaurant he plans to open someday will be called &ldquoO&rsquos Underwater Bistro&rdquo and it will have special bubbles, some &ldquoexecutive bubbles&rdquo and some &ldquoromantic bubbles,&rdquo where customers will dine floating around underwater separate from the main restaurant, like in submarines.

But today, Logan has overcooked and underseasoned the rice in what he says would be the signature dish at his underwater bistro. The 82-pound, 4-foot-11-inch boy from Memphis, who, unlike some of the other contestants, can actually see over the cooking counters on the MasterChef set, has had one hour to create this dish, presumably without any adult assistance. And though his perfectly seared steak has &ldquonice char and color,&rdquo the plate overall is too simple &mdash lackluster, Ramsay says. As the British celebrity chef tells Logan that &ldquothe judges have come to expect more from you, young man,&rdquo a tear so giant that even I can see it from behind the cameras 30 feet away drops off Logan&rsquos cheek and hits the floor. The boy&rsquos shoulders curve forward, his head drops, and he&rsquos sobbing.

Ramsay comforts Logan after critiquing his dish.

Producers backstage stop whispering into their mics. The cameramen are still and tense. No one likes to see a child cry. But then Ramsay, who has seven Michelin stars, 25 restaurants, and a reputation for calling the cooks on his TV shows things like &ldquomiserable wee bitch&rdquo and &ldquoyou fucking donkey&rdquo does something unexpected: He steps forward, hugs the child, and tells him it&rsquos going to be OK, that he did his best. When Logan returns to his station, no longer crying, the other children comfort him and tell him he&rsquos a great cook.

In spring 2013, when Fox announced it was going to air a kid-centric spin-off of its amateur cooking competition MasterChef with 8- to 13-year-olds, it sounded horribly annoying &mdash like a desperate attempt to revive a played-out format. The built-in precociousness of the concept was off-putting: 12-year-olds talking about Sriracha foam. And who wants to watch kids being mean to one another or judges hurting their feelings? &ldquoFox's Junior MasterChef to find newer, younger chefs to disappoint Gordon Ramsay,&rdquo wrote the AV Club.

But when the show debuted last fall, it was absolutely delightful. Now, three episodes into its second season, it&rsquos still so good. MasterChef Junior&rsquos first season was the highest-rated broadcast show in its Friday evening time slot among adults 18 to 49. It performed especially well in DVR and got good reviews. This season it is upgraded to a coveted Tuesday evening spot and averages a solid 5.3 million total viewers.

Seeing Ramsay&rsquos gentler, helpful side is reason alone to watch. But the kids are the real stars because they (and the producers in the control room) turn the reality cooking show on its head by making it more heartwarming than cutthroat &mdash they actually are here to make friends. They are more than happy to lend one another ingredients and help during the challenges. They often cry when anyone is sent home because they are sad for their friend. They release piercing screams of delight when a food for the next challenge is revealed (&ldquoYaaaay! Pancakes!&rdquo), and collapse on the floor with relief when they aren&rsquot sent home. And there is a visual spectacle: They have to jump to reach ingredients in the pantry and stand on boxes to cook at the counters the scale is off. Meanwhile, the dishes they make are very impressive and just messy enough to be believable. Basically, everything they do and say is ridiculous, and yet it makes so much more sense than what adults do on television.

While we may know better than to believe everything we see on reality TV, the question remains: Are these kids as good as they seem? And if not, would that make the show any less fun?

Like many of our reality shows, MasterChef is a European export. The adult version is based on a BBC show that initially ran from 1990 to 2001, and the brand was exported globally. More than 40 countries have adapted the show &mdash there&rsquos a MasterChef Italia, MasterChef Pakistan, MasterChef China, and more. The kid spin-off was first introduced in 1994 in the U.K. and has been produced in 15 different countries.

Even so, the American show&rsquos executive producers Robin Ashbrook and Adeline Ramage Rooney, who also produce on the adult version, say they had a hard time getting Fox to sign on for Junior.

The not-distant memory of CBS&rsquos failure with Kid Nation must have been a consideration. The 2007 show put 40 children ages 8 to 15 in a New Mexico ghost town and asked them to create a viable society without adult supervision, then was canceled amid allegations of child abuse, child labor law disputes, and a New York Times article about the insane contracts the parents signed. That same year, Bravo ordered eight episodes of Top Chef Junior with 13- to 16-year-olds, which never aired. (Bravo did not respond to a request for an explanation why.)

&ldquoYou could go to anybody in the world and go, &lsquoRight, so we&rsquove got Gordon Ramsay,&rsquo and they&rsquod go, &lsquoBut he shouts at people,&rsquo" Ashbrook says. "And you&rsquod say, &lsquoAnd we&rsquove got this show with ovens and knives and hot dishes &mdash and then we&rsquore going to do it with kids.&rsquo So on that pitch you&rsquod be like, &lsquoYou&rsquore fucking out of your mind.&rsquo"

In 2012, while taping the third season of adult MasterChef, Ashbrook and Rooney taped a mystery box challenge with a group of kids &mdash each got a box with the same surprise ingredients and had to create a dish. They sent the tape to Fox. It worked.

When the casting call went out, the press was especially critical that the kids would be as young as 8. But Rooney says having younger kids for MasterChef Junior was essential.

&ldquoOnce you get to 14 to 17, they might be more skilled, but they&rsquove also kind of shut down a lot more,&rdquo she says. "So they&rsquore not as good for TV, frankly."

The rest of the show is almost identical to the adult version of MasterChef, which just aired its fifth season. The other two judges are New York restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich and Chicago chef Graham Elliot. The set&rsquos the same, the format&rsquos the same, and the production, editing, and culinary team are almost exactly the same.

&ldquoWe want it to be a show that is co-viewed with parents and that our Hell&rsquos Kitchen fans would watch, so we didn&rsquot want to neuter Gordon,&rdquo Rooney says, referring to one of Ramsay&rsquos other four shows currently on Fox in which he verbally abuses aspiring chefs cooking in competition for a job at one of his restaurants.

The Gordon Ramsay who appears on MasterChef Junior is a completely different judge &mdash helpful, goofy, and sweet &mdash so that you start to understand why some of the people who work for him show an irrational-seeming loyalty in the face of his insulting tirades and long list of scandals.

&ldquoFirm but fair. I liken it to a soccer coach,&rdquo Ramsay says of his attitude toward the kids on the show. &ldquoIf you want your child to succeed &mdash a ballerina, become the next basketball superstar, or play for the Dodgers &mdash then you will push them.&rdquo

The eight kids who remain in the competition on Episode 4 in Season 2 stand in a row in front of a stage where the three judges are also standing in a row. They&rsquore on a set on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles where they&rsquove been staying at a nearby hotel with their parents for the first two weeks of the three-and-a-half-week production. They&rsquore ready to find out what the first challenge of the episode will be.

Ramsay&rsquos voice has more bravado and is much louder than the other judges'. He wanders around set with an enormous, devious presence that makes even off-camera moments feel like reality TV.

A production guy coming from the behind-the-scenes kitchen rolls a cart near the set and tells me to be careful, please don&rsquot put your coffee on this. Covered by a cloche, this plate is handed to the judges a minute later when they announce the challenge.

&ldquoThere is one ingredient that every chef relies on,&rdquo Ramsay says. His voice rises with booming excitement to build the moment where he lifts the cloche: &ldquoIt&rsquos simple. It&rsquos glorious. And delicious! It is an&hellipegg.&rdquo

&ldquoDuuuuuuuh,&rdquo says Oona, an extremely bright 9-year-old with big eyes and dark hair pulled into messy pigtails. Oona&rsquos favorite TV show of all time is Alton Brown&rsquos Good Eats she&rsquos seen every single episode and most of them several times over. Oona&rsquos dad, a Yale Law School professor, says he wasn&rsquot inclined to let her watch MasterChef Junior when the show first came out: &ldquoMy picture of reality TV was snarky adults saying mean things to each other,&rdquo he says. &ldquoWe didn&rsquot want her to see that.&rdquo But the show wasn&rsquot that, so he and his wife agreed to let her watch it.

Bastianich, the third judge, begins to describe the sunny-side-up hero egg: &ldquoNotice there are no brown edges, there are no wobbly whites,&rdquo he says. &ldquoThey're not snotty or runny.&rdquo The words &ldquosnotty&rdquo and &ldquorunny&rdquo are too much for some of the kids, and they burst into giggles.

Then there is a confusing silence for a minute or two. The judges have earpieces to receive stage directions during taping from producers in the control room who tell them what to redo. By now, the kids are used to these awkward pauses, but they are kids: They have a hard time standing still. Actually, so does Gordon Ramsay. Similarities between the celeb chef and the children are shockingly clear in person: They love to make trouble, they have scary amounts of energy, they get bored easily, and they throw temper tantrums.

All of a sudden the judges are alert again and Elliot starts talking: &ldquoYou will have 10 minutes to make us as many perfect, sunny-side-up eggs as you can,&rdquo he says. &ldquoAt your stations you will find everything you need: oil, butter, and a whole lot of eggs. You'll have eight pans, which I highly recommend you use simultaneously. Every perfectly fried sunny-side-up egg that we decide is good enough will give you a huge advantage in the upcoming challenge.&rdquo

Then, it seems like it&rsquos go time: The cameras start moving and the kids begin to run to their stations. But the producers yell, &ldquoCan I have the kids back up at the front?&rdquo and the judges take a break. What the kids will do between finding out the details of their challenge and 20 minutes later when they start cooking eggs I don&rsquot know, because Ramsay wants to chat backstage in another room and ushers me away.

Gordon Ramsay is worth $47 million, according to Forbes. In addition to owning restaurants all over the world, he&rsquos produced and starred in 23 television shows since 1999. He&rsquos published 27 books, has a line of tableware with WWRD (Waterford, Wedgewood, Royal Doulton), and has so much energy that you feel rushed to keep up with the cadence of his speech and under pressure to keep his attention. His attention is actually impossible for anyone to keep most of the time. Even his own thoughts don&rsquot keep his attention long enough for him to properly finish them.

&ldquoI absolutely 100% categorically submerge myself in the, you know, I don't give a shit what's going on outside, there could be a crisis &mdash last week we got a stupid lawsuit issued over a total ridiculous, ridiculous place, there's a big conference call tonight where we are putting the defense together. It's just if there's one thing that always puts me off about working over here [in the U.S.] it's that the more popular and the more famous you become then the more litigious and the more small excuse people take as advantage to sue. &rdquo

The way Ramsay talks is part of his manic power. He has the same force to his speech as on television, but without an editor to cut it and make it coherent. He spits out raw quotes that apart might be worth something, but together become extremely confusing.

&ldquo. so that's one thing I've learned over the last decade. In terms of everyone says hey and of course the British press 'he's been sued again, that's 14 times in 7 different countries!' It's a joke. Whatever crap&rsquos going on there, when I walk in here and I'm with these guys, they've got me 100% because it is so important look at the sort of rip-offs already in terms of Food Network and Bravo now, and the amount of people that try to imitate, and you've got that sugarcoating ass-kissy, let's get all gooey and this is real &mdash this is seriously real.&rdquo

He says he is involved in every aspect of the show, including casting, to identify the kids coming from desperate stage moms who aren&rsquot really passionate about cooking. He was not fazed by initial skepticism about his working with children. &ldquoI&rsquom a father of four and there&rsquos no script for being a parent.&rdquo He talks about his own children a lot they are between the ages of 12 and 16 and they are all over his Instagram feed amid pictures of him getting in race cars, getting on helicopters, and training for the Ironman.

The kid contestants idolize Ramsay. Logan, for example, says Ramsay&rsquos opinion is the only one that matters during judging. Logan&rsquos mom tells him to try to not look so pitiful during taping that he gives her a heart attack every time he looks at the camera. Logan says he&rsquos probably just bored because judging takes so long.

&ldquoHe&rsquos the best chef out of all three of them,&rdquo says Sam, a blond 9-year-old contestant from Reseda, California, who has a Skrillex-like hairstyle. Sam says he knows Ramsay&rsquos the best chef because &ldquohe&rsquos done so many TV shows and so many things like that, and you can see he looks so good as a chef.&rdquo

&ldquoBless him," Ramsay says about Sam when tell I him this later on. "I mean, that&rsquos a bit of a wrong interpretation. There needs to be an actual passion there, and that&rsquos what we weed out very quickly."

After this quick break, 10 minutes are set on the MasterChef clock, which hangs high in the middle of the room. The kids run to their stations and begin furiously cracking eggs into pans.

Ramsay, Bastianich, and Elliot stand on the stage, still being filmed, talking about the best techniques for making eggs. Bastianich suggests frying two eggs in one pan Ramsay is horrified and pokes fun at him. Ramsay explains that the most important element here is actually the butter: You have to baste the eggs, spoon hot butter over the whites to cook the tops faster. Crack the egg low near the pan so the yolk doesn&rsquot break bring the plate close to the pan so you don&rsquot have to walk around with an egg on your spatula.

&ldquoFour minutes gone!&rdquo yells Ramsay toward the kids. &ldquoSix minutes remaining! Speed up, guys, multitask.&rdquo

I&rsquom standing near supervising culinary producer Sandee Birdsong, who is watching the kids closely and also has an earpiece and microphone to communicate with producers during taping. A former contestant on Top Chef, Birdsong is now also that show&rsquos supervising culinary producer, and her job is to oversee all the food on the show &mdash order equipment and ingredients, create and test challenges, and train the kids. After a minute or two she says quietly into the microphone, &ldquoTurn the heat down, all the kids are burning the eggs&rsquo edges.&rdquo

A minute later, Elliot says to the kids from the judges podium, &ldquoGuys, make sure you don't get your heat too high, we don't want any brown edges, control that pan.&rdquo

Birdsong and her culinary team of as many as 26 people teach the kids cooking classes in between episodes, walking them through the techniques they need to succeed and giving them safety training. The MasterChef classroom is identical to the set &mdash same ovens, same food processors &mdash so the contestants can get familiar with the equipment. The culinary team squeezes in as many classes for the kids as they can given the short amount of time children are legally allowed to be on the Paramount lot every day. "The kids are here to learn as much as they can the whole time,&rdquo she says.

Birdsong says she doesn&rsquot teach the kids exactly what to do for a challenge, but rather shows them a basic and (most importantly) the fastest way to accomplish things like make a sauce or filet a fish. There are lots of different ways to make a piecrust, for example, but one way is probably best when you&rsquore racing the clock. The kids have the option of writing down and memorizing anything from class.

&ldquoWe teach a very basic application that works in our environment and that&rsquos what they tend to stay with, and it&rsquos their choice if they go off that mark [during a challenge],&rdquo she says, adding that the adults who receive the same classes are more likely to revert to their personal cooking methods.

Halfway through the egg challenge, Ramsay takes an interest in Abby, the youngest contestant at 8, who&rsquos got her pan too hot and is still struggling to get a single egg fried and on a plate. Abby, who's from Winchester, Virginia, still has a sweet baby-talk quality to her voice and is impossibly adorable. In Episode 2, while watching the other kids race to cook pancakes, she screamed nearly every time a pancake was flipped over and at one point nearly collapsed from excitement. &ldquoTake the pan to the plate, young lady,&rdquo Ramsay tells her.

She yells back, clearly stressed: &ldquoIT&rsquoS NOT READY.&rdquo

When time&rsquos up, the judges all count down the last 10 seconds together.

The kids raise their hands in surrender and stop cooking.

&ldquoWho&rsquos feeling good, guys?&rdquo Ramsay asks, cheerfully. No one raises a hand. The kids&rsquo mood is total frustration. &ldquoAw, come on, no one?&rdquo

A producer hollers from the side, &ldquoLet&rsquos do the last five seconds again, guys,&rdquo and on cue the kids pretend to plate eggs and run around while someone counts, &ldquoFive, four, three, two, one.&rdquo

Then the kid chefs are shuffled out of the room for a break. Instead of the judges going to inspect the eggs, Rooney emerges from the greenroom and walks station to station to see who cooked the most eggs.

After the numbers are calculated, Birdsong, Elliot, Bastianich, and Rooney sit at a table offset discussing how to make the next challenge work. As it turns out, the number of eggs each kid cooked in this first challenge will determine the number of ingredients he or she will be allowed to use to cook a signature dish. Little Abby, sure to be an audience favorite, has successfully fried only two eggs in 10 minutes.

The lights on the set go dim the pans and eggs and dishes are being cleared away. Out of the blue, Gordon Ramsay makes an announcement:

&ldquoThe lady from BuzzFeed is going to do the egg challenge.&rdquo The cameramen, producers, and crew are as surprised as I am. &ldquoLights up, please, thank you,&rdquo he hollers at no one in particular.

The kids aren&rsquot present and the cameras aren&rsquot rolling. And though I&rsquove been hanging around the set of his show for two days, I don&rsquot think I&rsquove done anything to make him want to actively embarrass me. We had so far spoken innocuously about this show and his own children. I had not even asked him about the time he fat-shamed a contestant on Hell&rsquos Kitchen, nor the time he tricked vegetarians into eating meat, nor about his allegedly showing up with a camera crew without permission at the wedding of his now-estranged mentor Marco Pierre White. I did not ask if he actually hired someone to film his father-in-law (and former business partner) having an affair, or if any of those things make him feel any doubt that he should be a role model for children.

But Ramsay&rsquos probably just bored he doesn&rsquot want me or anyone getting too comfortable, and he knows this will be fun. And he does not know, thank god, that I attended culinary school. In theory I should be decent at this. But I'm not. I can&rsquot be relied on to do anything quickly &mdash not cooking, writing, thinking, or any kind of thing. I accidentally set my course book on fire more than once.

Ramsay abruptly starts singing &ldquoIf I Could Turn Back Time&rdquo and rushing the producers to bring over the pans, oil, eggs, and butter. "Get the clock ready. You have five minutes. Are you ready? Five minutes, I want to see how many you can do. Your time starts now.&rdquo

I start cracking eggs into the pans without remembering to turn on the heat under any of the pans.

&ldquoTurn the gas on first, young lady! Fifteen seconds gone! Let's go, let's go, let's go! Thirty seconds gone.&rdquo

&ldquoPlease no cursing, Emily. Forty seconds gone.&rdquo

&ldquoDarling, you gotta go faster, I am starving. Coming up to one minute gone. If an 8-year-old can do it, I'm sure a 22-year-old can do it.&rdquo

But there is a crowd of about 20 people from the crew watching, taking photos with their phones, and laughing.

&ldquoEmily, I'm begging you, turn the fucking gas on.&rdquo

&ldquoComing up to two minutes gone. EMILY, PLEASE,&rdquo he yells. I am still not even finished cracking all eight eggs into all eight pans because I have apparently forgotten how to crack eggs, what to do with the shells, how to pan, what are eggs.

&ldquoWhat if I just throw one of these raw eggs at you,&rdquo is for some reason my response.

&ldquoPlease, Emily, don't waste time. I've got your editor on the phone, he's live and he's not impressed.&rdquo

I consider telling him that my editor is a woman. I don&rsquot really want to embarrass him and make him yell even more. Or do I?

&ldquoMy editor is a woman,&rdquo I say, cringing.

&ldquoWell, she's not very happy. We're Skyping her straight after this. I BEG YOU, GET ONE FUCKING EGG ON THE PLATE, PLEASE.&rdquo

I remember I should throw some butter in there and baste.

&ldquoNice, that's lovely. Butter, butter, butter,&rdquo he says three times rhythmically. I&rsquom reminded of the way he also offhandedly said, &ldquoTo the bar. The bar, the bar, the bar,&rdquo three times earlier in the day.

&ldquoSeventy-five seconds to go!&rdquo he yells.

This is the part where, if you&rsquore a real cook, your brain turns off and your muscles remember and everything&rsquos familiar so you can work like a machine. You can rhythmically baste, tilt, scoop, and plate along a row over and over with movements so efficient that 75 seconds is the perfect amount of time to plate eight sunny-side-up eggs. But the kids don&rsquot have that muscle memory, how could they, and neither do I. No one is magically a master chef. It takes practice.

Ramsay, I&rsquove realized by now, needs to yell the whole time and doesn&rsquot like silence, so he says, &ldquoComing up to 60 seconds to go! EMILY, PLEASE.&rdquo

I get an egg on the plate.

&ldquoONE EGG, YAY. &rdquo he says sarcastically. &ldquoLast minute!&rdquo

The rest of the eggs just haven&rsquot finished cooking. I have spent most of my five minutes fumbling with the heat and running back and forth between my two ranges of four eggs each.

The entire production crew of MasterChef Junior counts down my last 10 seconds.



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