Hors d’oeuvres

Review: The Chew

So ABC earned the ire of soap fans this summer when they announced they were canceling All My Children after 4.5 million years on the air.  During that time the show had entertained people with nearly a dozen original plot lines.  But the era of the soap opera died almost a decade ago with the advent of reality TV.  To breath new life into their daytime line-up ABC invented The Chew.

The name is a sardonic jab at fellow ABC talk show The View which features five largely untalented and bitter people with a collective IQ of 23.  The Chew also features five cast members but with highly successful careers and a love of life co-hosting a food-centric talk show.

Here’s ABC’s official take:

Daily dish on cooking and eating, featuring hosts Mario Batlai, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz and Michael Symon, who explore food from various angels.

the chewIt’s hard to judge a show of this nature from just one airing but I’ll take a stab at it.  It was quite enjoyable, especially Carla Hall.  Most people know Batali and Symon from their work on the Food Network and Kelly from his hit show What Not To Wear but Carla and Daphne Oz may not be quite as famous.

Carla is country smart, genuine and hysterically funny.  I lived in Carla’s hometown of Nashville for the better part of the 90’s so I am very familiar with her effervescent personality.  My prediction is that Hall will be the break out star from this show.

On the surface it appears that Daphne Oz has the hardest uphill climb.  She will no doubt have to battle critics who claim she’s taking the Charlie Sheen path to stardom (riding the coattails of a famous relative) but she was solid and charming. For the record she is the daughter of Oprah’s favorite medicine man, Dr. Oz who, incidentally, made a surprise cameo in episode one.

Oz’s forte is healthy food.  For years people have screamed that they wish there were more shows about healthy eating on TV and every single one of them was lying their butts off.  Food Network, TLC and practically every cable channel have repeatedly tried producing healthy cooking shows.  Every time one premieres diet-addicts tune in for the first episode or two and then head on back to the drive-thru.  Mixed into an ensemble like this is the best way to handle healthy eating tips.

Kelly is known for his quick wit and it was on display in the first episode.  His specialty on the show is making hors d’oeuvres out of standard dishes.  How very Jyll Everman of him.  Clearly he’s a Food Network Star fan.  Clinton’s funniest moment was actually a facial expression.  Co-host Carla Hall was talking about finding an old 70’s Betty Crocker recipe box saying, “Clinton has had his eye on my box.”  A quick grin and eyebrow arching had me laughing out loud.

For their part Symon and Batali were exactly what they have become famous for.  However, Batali was not on set for the debut episode which seemed odd considering how much hype the show received over the summer.  He was instead on a golf course in view of Manhattan remotely cooking from the 14th green.  The revelation that he was there as part of a charity event brought clarity to his absence from the set.

Other than the stop-by from Dr. Oz and glimpses of Hall’s family in the audience there were no guests on the first episode but that will change.  In an attempt to appease the Prozack-riddle minds that protested the cancellation of soap operas and patronize The View they have planned segments this week with Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar.  That would be the perfect time to take the trash out to the road or trim your toenails.

The first episode featured each cast member cooking something, that was well conceived.  It gives the viewer an idea of each person’s POV.  I’m hoping that future episodes will feature guests (other than notoriously unfunny comedians) where they can address issues and trends within our food system.  There certainly are a lot of serious things that the mainstream media has ignored while saturating the airwaves with erroneous warnings of the dangers of salt and eggs.

I look forward to seeing how The Chew evolves over the coming weeks.  It should be interesting.  By the way, the show is produced by Gordon Elliot who hosted a number shows on the Food Network before becoming a star-maker with his company Follow Productions which introduced the world to Paula Deen and the Neely’s.

I also look forward to one day being a guest.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Gordon.

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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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