Review: Top Secret Recipes

So CMT (Country Music Television) is looking to cash in on the reality food trend.  I say the more the better.  Though this may sound like a bit of a stretch to the layman keep in mind that Scripps Networks owns CMT, Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

Todd WilburHere is the tagline from CMT, “Todd Wilbur is a food hacker who travels the country to crack America’s favorite recipes.”  In the season premiere he tackles one of the most famous “secret recipes” ever, Colonel Sanders’ original recipe with eleven herbs and spices.  I have read that a lab tested the crust once and actually only found four ingredients other than flour.  If so that makes “11 Herbs and Spices” one of the greatest advertising stunts ever.

For a foodie watching a self-professed “food hacker” like Wilbur dissecting and reverse engineering a recipe is fascinating.  For reality geeks their is a time limit in which Wilbur must complete his “hack” in order to satisfy the challenge.  At the end of the time limit experts are brought in to taste the host’s recipe for authenticity.  He is assisted by the eccentric food scientist Claudio.  On the surface it is a pretty intriguing concept but does it execute?

Todd Wilbur has been hacking the nation’s most famous recipes since 1987 when he was the man who exposed the infamous Mrs. Fields Cookie Recipe chain letter as a fraud.  That started his trek to explore the world of secret recipes which now includes nearly a dozen cookbooks, a newsletter and a web site.

Though there are a few cheesy, if not staged, scenes of Wilbur dumpster diving to find recipe secrets and certainly Claudio’s eccentricity seems a bit contrived but the show overall is interesting and entertaining.

I have never had a desire to reproduce KFC’s fried chicken, like most Southerners I believe mine is much better.  However, there are a lot of people out there that are obsessed with secret recipes.  Those folks will love all the techniques Wilbur employees to get at the heart of the secret including interviewing former employees and actually horking a used glove from the KFC test kitchen when no one was looking.

As a host Wilbur is comfortable on camera and engaging.  Though he has an adequate sense of humor it is not on the level of other food science hosts like Troy Johnson (Crave), Ted Allen (Chopped) or Alton Brown (Iron Chef America).  Admittedly, that is not a fair critque based solely on one episode so I reserve the right to change my opinion on that issue later on.  So did Todd pull it off?  Well, you’ll just have to watch for yourself as the episode will re-air periodically throughout the week.

Top Secret Recipes is an enjoyable watch especially if you’ve already seen the Triple D rerun six times on Food Network.  It airs on Fridays at 9/8PM central on CMT.  Check your local listings, do I have to do all the work for you?

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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