Alex Guarnaschelli competes on Food Network – reality blurred

“I can go home on my own show” Iron chef Alex Guarnaschelli says with surprise, and perhaps even a touch of annoyance, on the first episode of his new Food Network competition. Alex vs. America.

Alex vs. America She is a flagship vehicle for an outstanding chef and competitor, and putting her talent, competitiveness, and outspokenness at center stage has created a top-notch reality competition.

I was first introduced to Alex as a judge in chopped up, where it has been since its first season, delivering sharp and sometimes cutting reviews.

But before judging that and other shows, from The worst cooks in America to Guy’s Grocery GamesAlex was on the other side of the table.

In 2007, Alex was chef against Iron Chef Cat Cora in Iron chef america, a battle Alex lost. But that didn’t stop him from competing.

He later went on to compete in The next iron chef, winning the fifth season and thus joining the show and taking the iconic title, and other shows, including Defeat Bobby Flay Y The worst cooks in America, both of which he won.

More recently, Alex organized Supermarket surveillance, which is basically chopped up In a parking lot, and instead of a pantry, contestants buy their ingredients from people leaving the store. She was fine, but she didn’t play to her greatest television strength: as a competitor who loves to compete.

After Alex won Next Iron Chef In 2013, I interviewed Alex and asked if he could put his reputation as a judge on the line to get back to racing. “Chefs take that risk every day by owning restaurants and making themselves vulnerable to public opinion,” he told me. “You just hope that people respect the fact that you want to expose yourself.” I believe Alex vs. America it will increase the respect people have for Alex, because it is not an easy challenge.

Alex Guarnaschelli, Iron Chef America
Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli competes on Iron Chef America (Photo by Todd Plitt / Food Network)

Alex vs. America (Food Network, Sundays at 10) is a Lando Entertainment production, which also produced the fantastic Champions Tournament, and the sensitivity of that show is infused into this new competition, from the breaking of the fourth wall to the judging.

In each episode, Alex Guarnaschelli faces three talented chefs who share a similar specialty, such as seafood or spicy cuisine.

In the first round, the three competitors choose the challenge, selecting things like the core protein, the plating method, a type of cooking, and / or the time to make a dish.

This is similar to the giant wheel that Guy Fieri spins on. Champions TournamentBut instead of a random outcome, the contestants are deliberately arguing and choosing things that they hope will leverage their strengths and not Alex’s. The winner of the first round makes similar selections for the second and final rounds.

The best chef finalist Eric Adjepong presents Alex vs. America, casually walking through the kitchen and chatting with the chefs and with the camera.

Other The best chef Alum appear as judges: In the first three episodes, Tiffani Faison, Antonia Lofaso, and Michael Voltaggio are paired with another judge, including familiar Food Network faces such as chopped up the winner Cara Nicoletti or the star chefs Bricia López and Tetsu Yahagi. Other judges include Evan Funke, Valerie Gordon, Jonathan Grahm, and Jet Tila.

Eric Adjepong, host of Alex vs.  America, in a Top Chef season 17 photo because the Food Network has no photos of the host of its own show.
Eric Adjepong, host of Alex vs. America, in a Top Chef season 17 photo because the Food Network has no photos of the host of its own show. (Photo by Smallz & Raskind / Bravo)

The contestants, including Alex, leave before the judges show up, and the judges don’t know who cooked what dish. Then they rank the dishes from best to worst.

Here’s how Alex can go home on his own show – if it’s his plate in last place after the first round, he’s out. In the second round, if your plate is in first place, no one wins anything, but beating Alex earns a contestant $ 10,000 for coming in first place and $ 5,000 for coming in second.

Both Alex and his show acknowledge something like a similar series, Defeat Bobby Flay, no: the advantage Alex and Bobby bring. Bobby Flay, for example, benefits not only from his talents, but also from how familiar he is with the show’s cooking and perhaps even how familiar the judges are with him.

Although Alex faces three chefs, she has the experience that they do not. “My experience would compete,” Alex says in the first episode, after acknowledging that the other three chefs are seafood experts. That means she knows how to play games, she knows how to manage the clock, and she is much more familiar with all the television sets that are required to do a reality TV show.

Alex vs. America it’s a better show than Defeat Bobby Flay because it gives Alex a more challenging task. Bobby Flay’s show is limited by the number of contestants – while the judges don’t know who cooked what, they only have two dishes in front of them, and obviously they know that a Bobby Flay dish is one of the two they’re in front of. they.

Like all pros, Alex doesn’t win every time he competes, and he takes all games seriously. His respect for the contestants and their skill is evident.

“I don’t think I have won. I think I could have come last, ”he says in the first episode, and this doesn’t seem like a performance to our benefit. Just watch the discomfort on her face as you wait for the decisions and the reaction when you hear the results.

The doubt is real, and I’m glad the show includes those moments rather than editing them, turning its star into a one-note character rather than a real person.

The production also uses an informal and relaxed approach: it does not hesitate to break the fourth wall and show us the camera operators, the PAs exchanging dishes during the evaluation and a judge doing a makeup touch-up between dishes. All of this is intentional, of course, but it has the effect of making everything feel more honest.

As the first three competitors try to make four decisions, Alex wanders the set. “I feel like a caged tiger. I just can’t stand still after a while, ”she says, and that’s just the beginning of her honest and comical reactions.

After telling contestants that she doesn’t want to use canned clams, she says, “Why did I admit it? My therapist and I have been working really hard on this. “Later, she tells a producer,” I hate the word ‘regret,’ Jesse. I only regret things like a couple of my old boyfriends. “

With this combination of joviality and serious competition, I wish the show had a better name. The “versus America” ​​thing is unnecessarily bombastic and too similar to other titles, like Buddy vs. Christmas Y Cooks Against Cons.

Ultimately, it doesn’t make sense either, as is the giant map of the United States with each chef’s status highlighted.

Not that Alex faces 50 chefs in the first season, and the presumption completely falls apart when applied to the titles of the five episodes: “Alex vs Shellfish”, “Alex vs Beef”, “Alex vs Spicy”, “Alex vs. Chocolate,” “Alex vs. Noodles.” I guess those are just short for “Alex vs. Featured Chefs Known For Excellent Seafood Cooking”?

The only thing the title does well, and the show does it very well at all times, is the center Alex. This is a show about challenging one of the Food Network’s best and fiercest competitors to take on three outstanding chefs in his wheelhouse, but this time at home. Finally.

Alex vs. America

Alex vs. America is a starring vehicle for a prominent chef and competitor, Alex Guarnaschelli, and putting his talent, competitiveness and frankness at center stage has created a world-class reality competition. TO

What works for me:

  • Centering Alex Guarnaschelli as a TV personality, chef and competitor, all in one show
  • The structure of the competition, with the contestants creating the first challenge and judging blindly.
  • The talent level of the competitors.

What could be better:

  • A better title, since the “Vs. America ”the presumption makes no sense
  • More than five episodes. (Only five ?!)

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