It is hard for me to write about Food Network’s The Worst Cooks in America, without (sniff!) crying. Honestly, the show has been a weekly festival of cliches, water works and panic attacks – sort of a Hell’s Kitchen meets The Biggest Loser with an additional level of schmaltz that makes your average Oprah episode seem positively hard boiled. In other words, I lapped it up immediately. As one of my friends pointed out correctly, this show would be infinitely better if they could identify the worst of the worst, but that is hard – since the competitive integrity of such an enterprise would obviously be compromised. So we are left with this. The premise, two teams of six recruits, each team being directed by a chef who tries to train them to cook a meal that could fool food critics.
The first weird thing about the show are these chefs – Beau MacMillan and Anne Burrell. Anne Burrell of course is a sous chef for Mario Batali and a familiar face whenever Batali took the stage on Iron Chef America. She also hosts some Saturday morning cooking program – either way she might have the most annoying cadence imaginable, some sort of Valley Girl crosses with a character from Jersey Shore. The end result is a near inability to sound sincere, even when she is describing how heart rending it is to see a chef -testant fall to pieces. Chef Beau on the other hand sounds a little more sincere but speaks in a gruff Bostonian accent and is edited to use a bunch of cliched observations, so he is left with such pithy bon mots as “There goes Mr Inconsistent. One day he’s good, another bad.” I know – how profound, this guy is a Thoreau!
The recruits themselves are quite lousy. They were chosen as the worst of the lot in the contestant search, and the season premiere where the chefs showed off their own achievements was appropriately lousy (a boiled chicken, three cans of soup mixed together – those were the GOOD ones). The before picture was there, but of course there has to be a back story. These people are trying to cook for their relationship, their family, their sense of self worth – so this being television, we know what’s coming next. Tears. Lots and lots of tears. Tears when they succeed, tears when they fail, and tears in a particularly jarring moment this week when Jenny (who looks like Elvira Mystress of the Dark – and clearly the most talented of the recruits) had a panic fit while preparing hors d’oeuvres for a party. It’s hard to watch – not because I am particularly nice – but because there is just so much. Nobody here is just having fun.
This week’s episode was particularly special – they had to make hors d’oeuvres for party guests. We already covered Elvira’s problems. The amazing thing was that she did not get eliminated, nor should she have. She was a sobbing tub of goo at the end, but what she COULD produce was very good – and through the time leading up to this, she has been the best upside contestant. Marque on the other hand, remarkably personable, got the tapinade for his crostinis from a jar. That left Jen V with her feathered 70s hair, the winner but without joy. She started sobbing about how she disappointed Beau – Beau’s stone face as always does not change.
Now down to 4 contestants for next week – the train wreck continues. Obviously I must not miss it.