Pretty Good Sunday…

Usually Sunday means sleeping in a little before doing some errands and a few chores around the house. Instead, today, my wife and I drove down to Studio City and watched a new television pilot being filmed.

The show is called, Beat the Chefs, and the premise is a family with a recipe that’s been handed down through the generations or is part of their holiday/family tradition gets to put their recipe up against three world-renowned chefs cooking the same dish with $50,000 on the line for the amateurs.

In this instance the family, the Colombassos (From NJ? They didn’t give the family much of an intro so I’m not sure.), pitted their family Sunday tradition, penne with meatballs, against a trio of heavy-hitters in the culinary world.

The chefs were Art Smith (formerly Oprah’s personal chef and James Beard Foundation Award Winner), Michelle Bernstein (Also a James Beard Winner) and Ludo Lefebvre (A James Beard nominee and guerrilla restaurantuer with his roving restaurant in LA, LudoBites.).

The chefs and contestants had two hours prepare their meals. The three members of the Colombasso family were making a meatball and sauce recipe that had been handed down through five or six generations. Three of the generations were represented by a grandfather, his daughter and his granddaughter.

The twist for the chefs is that they don’t know what they’re going to prepare until they are in the kitchen. They have to use some of their time to come up with a strategy and a recipe to combat the contestants.

It was fairly interesting, the chefs have very different culinary perspectives (Smith=Southern Cooking, Bernstein=Latin and Lefebvre=French (Fusion?), so there was a bit of a challenge initially for them to come together.

Chef Ludo seemingly liked to play the villain during the taping. He was a little dismissive of the Colombassos and Italian cooking in general and the other two chefs came to the defense of the competition. It was clear that he was doing it trying to make for interesting TV and was having a pretty good time.

There was also some good interplay between the chefs, particularly Ludo and Art Smith. Smith is pretty exuberant and happy go-lucky and Ludo a little more dry and acerbic, putting the two together led to some funny moments as they mock-insulted each other and feigned being hurt.

Once the cooking started you could really see how creative the chefs were in their preparation using many of the tools in their repertoire and in the kitchen. Where the Colombassos had a very traditional preparation the chefs stuffed their meatballs with cheese, made tomato confit and bread sticks wrapped in squash blossoms.

After the two hours is up they wheel out the three judges, a world-renowned food critic, and editor for Bon Appetit and a food writer for Time Magazine.

Surprisingly, the judges spent a lot of time tasting the food. I thought they’d try a couple of bites of each and render a decision. I’d say they sampled for about twenty-five to thirty minutes before even conferring.

After tasting the judges were then required to say positive and negative things about both dishes before rendering their dishes. I won’t give the end away, in case it makes the air, but from all appearances the judges made the right decision.

Also, you’ll notice I wrote fairly interesting earlier. The food smelled awesome while they were cooking, but we were there from 8am until about 2:15pm. It had been a while since I’d been to a show taping and they can be grueling. This is probably a thirty minute to an hour show and they filmed for about five to six hours. Some parts were great but others… the hosts gets to say his thing over and over to make sure they got it right, they did some pick-ups (Having people repeat statements for editing) from the previous taping. So there were long stretches where nothing too interesting was going on. Still, if you’re in the Los Angeles area I think everyone should attend a taping of a show at least once just for the experience.

I’m really looking forward to what this looks like edited down on TV, but being there was a little tedious at times, and on top of it, the warm-up comic, Chunky, was nice, but not that funny but I think properly edited down this could be an entertaining little cooking show.

After the taping let out, we went and got a bite to eat (Not Italian!) and then did a little shopping not that far from the studios.

All in all, a pretty good Sunday…

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