I’m a stockholder in General Electric Corp. and I’m sort of happy that they and Vivendi have reached a deal whereby GE will buy Vivendi’s share of the NBC Television Network, so the whole thing can be sold to Comcast. I do not own any shares of Comcast.
The reason I’m happy about this is the latest in a series of ridiculous reality programs about the culinary world called “Chefs Academy,” which actually makes me unhappy. It’s like one of those situations where you see a gruesome accident and you can’t help but keep looking.
This program is shown on Bravo-TV, home to two of the most refined culinary competitions on television these days: “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters.” Apparently the brass at Bravo thinks these may be too classy and they need to appeal to the baser instincts.
So “Chefs Academy” reaches into the garbage bin that is reality TV and shows us a Michelin-starred French chef, his pregnant fiancé and executive sous chef (whose name – I’m not kidding – is Stephen Kitchen), coming to Venice, Calif., to open a “culinary academy.”
Chef Jean-Christophe Novelli is an extraordinary chef, but he must really need the money to put himself into this situation. Or, maybe like Chef Gordon Ramsay, he’s a glutton for punishment and likes to get aggravated by working with rank amateurs who have no business being in the kitchen. If somebody like Bravo or Fox threw money at me, as they’ve apparently done to Ramsay and Novelli, I might do the same thing.
We are led to believe that there is a grueling competition to become the first nine students in the brand new Novelli Academy. Since GE owned Bravo when these episodes were filmed, the kitchen is completely outfitted with top-of-the-line GE Monogram equipment. What is not top-of-the-line, however, is the cadre of students. And so we descend into the world that is reality television.
Unlike Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” some of these “students” have actually had culinary training or real-life kitchen experience, which leads me to wonder why they are in this so-called academy. There’s a Navy veteran who cooked on a submarine; two culinary school graduates; a wedding planner; an ex-porn star (really); and an L.A. suburbanite who actually belongs on Bravo’s other big reality franchise, “The Real Housewives of…”
This housewife, who appears to have a little bit too much money, too much jewelry, too much makeup and too much décolletage, actually summoned a tailor to refashion her chef’s coat. She applied liquid lip gloss before tasting what she had cooked, thereby changing her own sensory perception of the level of saltiness.
Then we have a Frenchman, who it turns out is a former pornographic film “star,” and he has a propensity for cutting himself, as he has no knife skills. We’ve already seen the standby medic bandaging this guy twice. His redeeming quality seems to be that he can replicate the dishes his grandmother cooked when he was growing up in France.
Chef Novelli is a brilliant cook and he’s earned his Michelin star(s). I’d kill to take a lesson or two from him. But I’m not reality TV material. I’m too old and probably too competent, excuse my humility.
If I were to choose a reality cooking competition to be on, I’d choose “Chopped,” on Food Network. Four working and legitimate chefs compete against each other with a mystery basket for three separate courses. The baskets sometimes have weird and wildly unrelated food items.
But this truly challenges a chef’s imagination, intuition, skill set and respect for the clock.
While Bravo TV’s “Chefs Academy” brings us a sort of voyeuristic look at a “culinary school,” let me tell you that it’s not the curriculum of any legitimate culinary school that I know of. It’s unreality TV. In real culinary school, you start by learning and making classic cuts of vegetables until your hands are sore, bruised and crippled.
If “Chefs Academy” lasts for more than a season, I’ll be surprised. But, then again, with the garbage that passes for programming these days, it might appear on the Bravo schedule again.
I can’t look any longer. It’s too painful.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.