Chef Academy Premiere Review
Posted by CJ Cregg on November 17, 2009
“Signature dish? This isn’t Top Chef. I don’t have a signature dish.” –Traci
Jean Christophe Novelli runs one of the top cooking academies in Europe. He’s bringing his school to America to transform
LA students into extraordinary chefs. Students who fail three or more of his tests are “finito.” Meaning they fail and are kicked out. (It’s ok, I don’t speak French either.)
My first thoughts? I can’t understand Chef Novelli when he talks. The show is extensively subtitled, which is annoying. I do like his catch phrase of “No way Pedro” though. Whatever it’s supposed to mean. Second thoughts. Do they just win knowledge? No prize to open their own restaurant? (NB: To my students reading this, knowledge is a prize. The BEST prize. Heh.)
Novelli interviews chef-wannabes to enroll 9 in his school. He says he’s seeking passion in his students. His students come from all walks of life, some have culinary training, and some do not. He asks them to cook an egg in anyway they want. They have five minutes, and he wants to see them work under pressure. Some clearly have no idea what they’re doing. (Even I know how to crack an egg. I do not know how to mince fresh garlic, however, so some of these prospective chefs [PCs for short] have one up on me.) Novelli peppers them with questions, the pan is crappy, and the burner is too hot. Just some of the excuses that the PCs come up with for why they fail. One dude spent the whole five minutes sauteing mushrooms. No eggs made it into the pan. But he’s from France, so he’ll make it on the show.
Novelli is harsh. He tells one chef that he wouldn’t feed her omelet to his dog. He is not nice. He’s prickly. He does give out praise when it’s warranted, though.
Novelli then finds a location for his academy. Complete with the same GE Monogrammed appliances that they use on Top Chef! Who knew!
Novelli shows the PCs his signature dish where he makes caramel into a basket to hold fruit. (So. Freaking. Awesome.) He asks them to make their own signature dishes. Some of the PCs make things like lobster and foie gras. The others freak out cuz they can’t even crack eggs. Traci makes mac and cheese. The french dude (not Novelli) cuts himself and bleeds all over. He’s a total space cadet. Carissa loses one strand of hair in her risotto. Epic fail. (Meet all of the PCs here.)
The best dish of the day was Suzanne, the crazy OC housewife. She made some Swedish pancakes. And convinced me she’s totally incompetent. Three dishes were classified as failures, and the other six pass. Three fails = expulsion.
It’s tough to get a feel for the show just from the intro episode. Again, perhaps I’m emotionally bankrupt, but I had a hard time mustering up strong feelings either way. It’s no Top Chef. But it’s not bad. I wish I didn’t have to read everything Novelli said, and that he wasn’t so terrifying. (Bravo already has Tabatha the terrifying salon taker-overer. Do they need to heap on the shows hosted by scary people?)
I’d recommend you give it a shot if you’re a Top Chef fan. No one does reality/competition like Bravo.