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5 Aug 2023


NextImg:Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Recipe For Disaster’ On The CW, Where Chefs And Helpers Cook Through Increasingly Messy Distractions

Nothing frustrates us more than a cooking competition show with no budget. Even on shows where the prize is in the low five-figures, the cheftestants appreciate the money almost as much as they appreciate calling themselves a “champion” of the show. But to put in the hard work, win, and get no money in return? That’s bogus. That’s one of the big things that annoyed us about the CW’s latest Canadian import.

Opening Shot: Host Ann Pornel greets three chefs and their helpers. The chefs are wearing massive unicorn horns on their heads.

The Gist: Recipe For Disaster is a cooking competition that has less to do with cooking and more to do with seeing chefs work through silly distractions. Three teams, consisting of one professional chef and one helper the chef brings that doesn’t know their way around a kitchen, compete through two rounds, and their resulting meals are tasted by Pornel and judges Shahir Massoud and Eden Grinshpan.

The first round is “Judge’s Choice,” where the judges give the parameters of what they’re looking for. The chefs get a randomly-selected time in order to make their dishes, but during that time they’re wearing something that’s physically inhibiting — the unicorn’s horn in the first, rainbow-themed episode, a coffin in the second, Dracula-themed episode. Also distracted by things falling from the rafters, like water and confetti, or syrupy blood.

The winner of the first round gets to choose which of the other teams have to use a “disaster ingredient” which is usually something hard to integrate. Colorful mini-marshmallows are the disaster ingredient in the first episode, blood sausage in the second. But the second-round, “Chef’s Special”, can be anything the chef wants, it just has to be stacked or wrapped or have some other quirk set by the show’s writers.

During this round, the chefs are unencumbered by the props they had to wear in the first round. However, the distractions are even greater, like when rainbow-colored syrup squirts down at random times, or clouds of cotton candy get in people’s faces. In the second episode, plastic spiders and bugs are tossed about. The winner of this round wins the episode and gets… um, a sense of pride, maybe?

Photo: 3Bird Media

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Think Chopped with funny distractions and with the not-taking-itself-seriously vibe of Nailed It!

Our Take: When we were watching the two episodes of Recipe For Disaster that The CW provided for review, the question we kept asking ourselves was, “Why would a chef subject themselves to this?” While most cooking competitions are artificial tests of skill, putting the cheftestants through time crunches or making them use strange ingredients, the distractions thrown at the chefs in this show are for pure comedic effect.

The chefs do show their frustration as they get waylaid by various things that are literally thrown at them, but they’re mostly good-natured about getting hit by squirts of rainbow syrup or having to plate their dishes with plastic spiders on it. And, if the judges are believed, they generally come up with good results, even if the plate contains some of the (mostly edible, thankfully) crap that rains down on them.

But the format of the show, which plays out over a quick 20 minutes without commercials, is designed to emphasize the distractions, not the technique of the chefs. And it seems that the seemingly clueless helpers aren’t a distraction at all, because the chefs do a good job of giving them instructions despite the distractions. It makes for a frustrating watch if you’re at all interested in the techniques these chefs use, but at least the episodes aren’t padded with banter between chefs or visits from the judges, like you see in other cooking compeititions.

We just wish the winners, after going through all of this, got more than just a certificate saying they won and some sort of prize that looks like it would have been something you could get with 200 tickets at Dave & Busters — a pot of “gold” candy coins in the first episode, and plastic vampire teeth in the second.

Sex and Skin: The obligatory food porn shots, which of course have the evidence of all the stuff that was thrown at the teams included, whether it’s confetti, plastic bugs or splatters of fake blood.

Parting Shot: The winners display their “prizes” and say, “We’re the masters of disaster!”

Sleeper Star: We would have liked to have seen the cameras pull back and show the crew members on the catwalks above the soundstage pouring the syrup, throwing the spiders, or dangling the clouds in front of the chefs’ faces. They’re the real heroes of this show.

Most Pilot-y Line: The whole show is one big “Pilot-y Line”, to be honest.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Sure, Recipe For Disaster is a pretty quick, harmless watch. But there are better cooking competition shows out there, even ones that play things up for laughs.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.