What's cooking on Netflix: The Chefs' Line
A reality TV show that focuses more on the food than on the competition.
This week on Netflix, I discovered a show called The Chef's Line. It is a reality competition show that originated in Australia. Each week (every 5 episodes) there is a featured cuisine (Italian, Turkish, African, etc..) and 4 home cooks compete against each other, and against a chef from a well known Australian restaurant, whose specializes in the featured cuisine.
As each episode progresses and a home cook is eliminated, restaurant chef they face changes as they move down the chef's line. Apprentice, Station Chef, Sous-Chef, and Head Chef. This aspect of the show not only makes it standout from other competition shows, but it also sets a bit of a benchmark for the viewer. As a viewer you know that the professional chefs have a certain amount of professional experience that they are bringing to the competition. Knowing what dish is theres and seeing how the home cooks' dishes compare it always quite interesting.
For the judging, there are 3 judges: Dan Hong, Melissa Leong, and Mark Olive. For each episode, one of the judges will blind-taste test the dishes while the other two inform him/her about each dish without giving away who made it. The judges also inform the viewer a bit of cultural background info on dish that is being created and what aspects of the dish are they looking for that would make the dish perfect.
There are a lot of elements in this show that I like compared to other reality cooking competition shows:
1. It's simple. The cooks make the featured dish and that is it. There are no curveballs, no additional challenges, no immunity, nothing. Everything is fair game.
2. The judging. With the blind-taste method of judging, everyone is judged fairly. No one has added expectations based on exceptional skills or shown leniency based on lack of skills. When it comes to the critique and announcing who was eliminated, everything remains positive. There are no overdramatic reactions to a poor dish and there is always positive comments despite the dish not being a winner.
3. The food is the focus. This show is all about the food. Although we get a brief background on each home cook, we don't get overly personal with each person to the point where we love/hate contestants. By focusing on the food we the viewers get to learn more about the dishes being created. For example, I had no idea what "Bánh Xèo" (Vietnamese style crepe) was and by the end of the episode, I was like "I need to try that. It looks so good!" Since each cook is required to give their interpretation of the featured dish, the judges also note the various techniques they use and how positively connect it to the traditional cooking method.
4. Sportsmanship. Since this show is about the food and not about the contestants, there are no arrogant comments from the contestants regarding how their dish/technique is better. When a home cook struggles, the head chef will jump in and offer them a few tips and words of encouragement to help them get back on track. Unlike other shows where people want to see their competition fail, here they help them succeed.
Overall this is a lighthearted competition show. The positivity you get from the contestants and the judges make it enjoyable and not stressful to watch. The food always looks amazing and it is fun to see everyone's interpretation of the featured dish while learning about it and its' cultural origins.