Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What’s The Best Thing About “Around The World In 80 Plates”?

Definitely Cat Cora’s haircut.

I finally got around to watching the first episode. I know the second episode is on tonight. I didn’t really want to watch it, but the promos made Cat Cora’s new haircut look really alluring. I wanted to see what happened to it as she goes around in the world to places of different humidity levels. (I bet it looks super, no matter how steamy the weather.)

I really liked the first five seconds of the show when Cat and Curtis say the words ”We’re going around the world in 80 plates” and the background changes to a different country with every word or so. That was nifty. The show went downhill after that and the title is kind of dumb.

Even in the promo, you can tell that this is Amazing Race/Survivor meets Top Chef. The idea is that the chefs will work in teams (ick) in each country and complete a culinary race that will “test their skill, stamina and knowledge of local cuisine”.

I have to admit I’ve only seen the Amazing Race once (when they went to Cambodia…neat), but this seems like a complete and total ripoff of that. The chefs don’t have to make their own way to different countries, but once they’re there, they have to engage in some kind of competition and get themselves around the new city. The added spin is that the chefs take over local restaurants to cook local dishes hoping to impress the local customers.

I’m thinking that besides being a super-competitive triathlete, the winning chef will have to be cocky, a definite stabber-in-the-back and a chef who is probably trained classically, but also (just as importantly) knows his or her way around Asian cooking. You just know they’re going to end up in some country that ends in SIA. Malaysia, Indonesia, or just plain ASIA counts too.

The only reason I’m watching this is to see how Cat’s hair fares, but I also want to see the places. This week was London. We actually only saw the inside of two pubs, but next week is France and any view there would be great. Plus Spain looks to be in the mix. I haven’t looked into any further episodes and, really, I couldn’t care less about the chefs. Let’s see if they make me care.

Next they show little clips of the chefs. The two most noteworthy? Number one is Sai, some Thai chef gal, who says she wants to be known for people wanting to _ _ _ _ her. HEY! Isn’t this a family show?!! We also see suggestive model-type photos. She is really gross. Just cook.

The other guy I’m interested in is the chef of the Boston Red Sox. Who knew baseball teams had their own chefs? I mean I know chefs work in stadiums and stuff, but to call yourself the Chef of the Boston Red Sox is cool. He cooks for all the VIP’s. Let’s face it, where is there better food than at a ballpark? Really I’m not kidding.

The chefs all arrive in London (separately) and we see three other chefs who don’t know Big Ben when they see it. That probably doesn’t bode well for their general savoir faire. I’m not being mean. I’ve never been to St. Louis, for example, but I’d know the arch anywhere. Same difference.  By the way, one of those chefs looks exactly like Mary Alice from the Ace of Cakes.

One young guy brags that he works for Art Smith and has cooked for presidents and Oprah. Well, that is exciting, but I’m still impressed by the baseball guy. His name is Nookie.

Another chef, Keven, (I guess we can’t blame HIM for how his name is spelled) is a total jackass. He said when people started calling him Chef Keven, it became Cheven. THAT is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Should we call President Obama “Presama”?!! Really, really dumb.  Luckily, the slutty chef (I think) calls him out in the taxi and says most men don’t wear their shirts unbuttoned that low. Of course, SHE shouldn’t be talking…

They all meet up with Curtis and Cat at London’s Borough Market. Cat’s hair is straight at the moment and not that smooth looking. (C’mon they promised us curly hair and promoted it like crazy! It has to look good in EVERY shot!)

Curtis tells them they have to divide themselves up into two teams. Really dumb. They’ve haven’t even met yet.

This is how it’ll work. They’ll go to a different international city every week. They’ll “tackle the course”. Race course? Course of study? Dunno. “It’s a race that will immerse (them) in the local food culture.” The first team that finishes “the course” will get some special ingredient which will give them a huge advantage. Then they take over a kitchen and have to cook local food for the locals.

Jerky Keven starts running in one direction and the rest of his team (the red team) follows him, except that he’s gotten them lost. Thai chef/sexy babe turns out to be an infantry instructor for the army. (WHY didn’t she open with that? That’s neat) She rallies the troops and gets them going in a different direction.

The other team (black team) takes a cab and gets to the pub first.

Keven’s team is STILL trying to find the pub and now someone other than Thai chef gal tries looking at the map.

The challenge is to go to 3 pubs and eat and drink certain foods really fast. I’m not sure the after-effects of that are fit for broadcast television.

At the second pub, they have to drink a yard of ale. That’s ale in a glass which appears to be 3 feet high. Ew. If the whole team drinks 3 yards of beer, they don’t have to eat any steak and kidney pie. Both teams opt for the liquid option. (They seem to be swapping quite a lot of saliva after just meeting.)

The two teams arrive at the last pub about 3 minutes apart. They have to eat tons of fish and chips and drink cider. I’m guessing they screened out the chefs with drinking problems, although they probably could develop one after this challenge. 

One team wins, I think it’s Keven’s. (I like how NO ONE is calling him Cheven.)  Each team takes over one of the pubs they went to. They have to cook the 3 dishes they crammed into their mouths, plus two more.

The winning team gets potatoes as their “exceptional ingredient”. The other team gets NO potatoes. This is one of those impossibly hard challenges that proves little, except that the chefs have to the appetites and drinking capabilities of frat boys.

One more thing, THEY vote THEMSELVES off. There are no judges to do the dirty work. The losing team members will choose themselves which member goes home. So they’ve definitely stolen the basic concepts of Amazing Race, Top Chef AND Survivor and mixed them all together.

It is incredible to me how few NEW ideas there are in television, in movies…in anything really. What’s the last really original thing you watched OR tasted? I guess molecular gastronomy was different from what came before.

I just heard Bravo’s Andy Cohen say the idea of the Real Housewives came to him from soap operas and the fact that he was a huge Susan Lucci fan. He wanted to recreate that kind of fantasy life. I’m glad he admits it’s a fantasy.

Both teams pow-wow to decide on their dishes. They shop the next day and then go to their respective pubs to cook. We’re hearing a lot from Sai (formerly showgirl and now tough competitor…in MY mind at least).

Remember what about the kind of training a chef would need for this show (after I had seen only 4 minutes)?  Well, Sai calls herself “a classically trained ASIAN chef”. Bingo! Of course, I meant FRENCH classically trained, and then Asian cooking experience either through ethnicity, travel or actual kitchen time. I’m not really sure what “classically trained ASIAN chef” means.

Keven is convinced his teammates are looking at him as a likely candidate to go home, because he says they know he’ll be such a huge challenge at the end. Umm…that’s not exactly why they think he’s going home. What a numbskull!

They finish cooking and it’s time for service. Sai is doing front of the house duties for her team. When one guy complains that there are no roast Pa-Hate-oh’s (he talks funny), she says it’s MORE HEALTHIER that way and everyone could stand to lose a few pounds. Dummy! Insulting your guests is not the way to get good marks. AND THEN she actually people if they’re missing the regular potato fries. (They served polenta fries.) Don’t bring attention to it, if you don’t have to! (At least, she kept her top on.)

Sai really isn’t too bright. She greets Curtis and Cat’s table and the stunning Nigella is introduced to her. Sai just says Hi Nigella, as if she’s no one. THEN it clicks. OH NIGELLA. HI!

Nigella likes the polenta fries. The food is going well so far. Keven’s bread pudding is fairly popular, but it needs more custard.

It’s the second team’s turn. At least THERE, the front-person (Gary) knows who Nigella is instantly. But there’s a problem with the food. The kidneys are unappetizingly large in the steak and kidney pie. Nigella says this is what people think English food is. Uh-oh that was Nookie’s dish, the baseball guy. They apparently did a ploughman’s sandwich very nicely.

Nigella is disappointed that there is no sweet at the end. One Brit liked the service at the second place, but the food at the other. But Sai being so bad should count against them, shouldn’t it? Keven is bad mouthing the other people on his team to keep the emphasis off of him.

At the end, Curtis’s big job is counting the votes. They’re not really using Curtis and Cat for much, except for standing in front of the chefs saying a few words.

Curtis asks Nookie what he thought about his steak and kidney pie. He said he thought it was okay. Curtis tells him the diners disagreed.

OMG, I just realized that the Red Team is wearing red chef’s jackets and the Black Team is wearing (guess!) black. In my defense, I’ve been looking at the keyboard a lot…

Curtis asks the black team (THAT really was so clever to put them black jackets) if there was a leader. Everyone (except Keven) pipes up and says Chaz. The gals think he’s really funny. The guys find him annoying. (That would make me like him even more…just to get even with Keven. Look how dumb those words look together. )

Curtis asks who made the dessert and who came up with the idea. Keven said he made it and Chaz says it was HIS idea. Keven is mad and tells US that it was HIS idea. But at this point, Keven (I’m calling him Kee-ven) doesn’t know if CURTIS thought it was a good idea, so he’s not saying anything. I’m not paying close enough attention frankly to know what Curtis is thinking.

The winning team is the black team. I suppose we can expect to see more drama from Keven and Chaz. And Curtis reveals that the diners loved the bread pudding, which makes Kee-ven/Keven even madder that he didn’t say anything.

Oh wait, Cat gets a line too! She says they’re picking one chef who they felt made the biggest contribution to the winning team. And it’s…Chaz. Now he has immunity the next week.

The Red Team has to go back and choose a person to vote off. Nookie allows them to say bad stuff about his steak and kidney pie. But then he deflects the attention away from himself and towards Ace Of Cakes Lookalike Gal. Oh, her name is Clara. Nookie should have left Clara alone and targeted the other bad dish from this super quiet Asian chef. The diners didn’t like her black pudding hash. Why are they not putting the chef’s names under their faces? I only know Nookie, Chaz and now Clara.

They go back out and Curtis calls on each of the Red Team chefs to say who they’re voting off. Oy, it’s not even anonymous! Darn, it’ll probably be Nookie. It’s always the one I like and, of course, they showed him a lot.

Gary, the one who was good in the front of the house, chooses Nookie. The quiet Asian girl says Clara. OF COURSE, Clara will say Nookie and Nookie will say Clara. I’m WRONG! Clara said Nicole. (Oh, THAT’S the name of the quiet Asian girl.) Oh goodie, so maybe Nookie will survive. Nookie does say Clara. And Jenna (who’s she?) says Clara.

Sooo Nookie’s little plan worked!!! He says (to us) his dish was the worst and yet Clara went home. Clara had had a little private moment with Nookie where she disclosed her anxiety to him. She feels that screwed her.

Chefs! Don’t be sharing your personal feelings with your competitors. Haven’t you ever watched Survivor? Even I know that and I only watched it a few times like 35 seasons ago…

WHY exactly is this show on the Food Network, aside from giving two of its stars incredibly limited face-time? It has almost nothing to do with cooking. Food is only a distant backdrop for the action, except for maybe the last ten minutes.

Cat says that their next stop is Lyon. If Paul Bocuse is on this weirdo show, then the universe really is askew.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Okay. Full confession here. I didn't recognize Big Ben when I first saw it. I had come off the redeye, totally jet lagged. It was 10AM and I couldn't check into my hotel for another 4 hours. Deciding to just randomly sightsee, I just headed to Trafalgar Square, not really knowing it was Trafalgar Square because I had left my maps in my bags with concierge. I saw this lovely clock tower and thought, "Wow. What a beautiful clock tower. I should get a photo." Then I smacked myself upside the head and said to myself, "That's called Big Ben! Maybe you've heard of it - oh say sometime around...YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. Major landmarks can sometimes look very different in the context of reality than they do in photos.

Keven offends my sensibilities. I am outraged on my husband's behalf. I have also seen it spelled Kevan. Ick. Have I mentioned I also hate the spelling Rachael?

I have only watched snippets of this show. I think the part I saw the most of was the elimination. I never really saw much of the context behind the hows and whys. Not sure if I'll keep watching. I am certainly interested in the destinations, but I'm kind of burnt out on shows like this.

Anonymous said...

If Paul Bocuse is on this show we'll know the world is coming to an end!

Seriously, though, it sounds dreadful. But I've been to Lyon twice so I'd be tempted to watch if only to see where they end up.

Sue said...

At least, that's a funny story about not recognizing Big Ben. These folks were not in the least charming in their cluelessness.

We're agreed on Keven. I don’t have a dog in the fight of Rachel against Rachael. I actually like them both.

So you don’t think watching the evolution Cat’s hair style is reason enough to catch this show?

Exactement…as to the reason for watching this series. I want to see the places, but judging from the first episode, I wonder how much of a travelogue it will turn out to be.

NMtmblwd said...

just cruising posts on around the world in 80 plates, the Thai chef is NOT an infantry instructor. I'm in the military and work at an institution that instructs Advanced Leader Infantry and just so you know in the military you cant instruct in a occupation you dont hold and since there are NO women in the infantry...

Abandoned By Wolves said...

Well, your review makes me think that this is a show I will be making of point of missing. (Your recaps are usually so good that there's almost no point in watching anyway!)

Sue said...

You know I'm not sure it was the CHEF who said that was what she did in the military. It might have been the caption under her name, so perhaps it was the Food Network that got her exact position wrong. Luckily, I've erased that episode, so I can't check.

It was the places they went to that also interested me, but I'm pretty sure this show isn't worth my time (or yours).

Yes, James,
Your time would probably be better spent actually cooking in the kitchen than watching these folks NOT cooking.