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FIRST LOOK: Mario Batali’s The Chew

Given the increased ubiquity of the foodie and “foodie culture,” it makes sense that a network like ABC would venture into the food TV world. Sadly, though, food TV has been done over and over again, and there’s only so much room to show us how to make “quick and affordable” recipes in our very own kitchens using simple ingredients. The Chew is nothing revolutionary. While we can definitely see the appeal of conversation mixed with cooking, The Chew is much like other TV shows that have attempted casual at-home cooking, and it leaves much to be desired.

We’re also still not sure why Daphne Oz or Clinton Kelly, the What Not to Wear guy, have any food authority. The Chew is somewhat of a wasted opportunity. We’re all about the coffee table vibe of The View combined with food, but The Chew can be likened to an E! Red Carpet special. Fun to watch (especially when all we’re doing is tweeting frantically about Angelina Jolie’s leg or J. Lo’s almost-wardrobe malfunction), but not very substantive. While, admittedly, this usually makes for good television, we wishThe Chew would offer us any groundbreaking new techniques to try at home or anything we haven’t really seen before. The Chew does not pretend to be something it isn’t, which we appreciate, but perhaps we wish it were something else.

Recipes are simple and unpretentious, but in a way that has already been done. The beauty of watching chefs like Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, for example, is the spontaneity of it all–the improvisation, which is always backed by masterful technique. The problem with The Chew is that the spontaneity is too calculated. Each cast member has his or her token role. Mario is the expert, Daphne talks about healthy lifestyle choices, and Symon cracks jokes about how he doesn’t care about those choices.

The show is segmented into parts for each of the hosts, and it is interspersed with the cast sharing stories and food. Each chef (that’s probably not the right word) shares a recipe, usually supported with some tips on how to entertain. Shifting the balance more on the recipes would probably make The Chew a better experience. Often, conversation dominates too much, and there is little focus on the food being prepared. The recipes seem rushed, and measurement and technique is often forsaken for the sake of expediency.

While The Chew is enjoyable, and some of the recipes might be worth a try, we’re still waiting for the knight in shining armor that will come and save food television from its rut.

Oh, we’re also not sure why Clinton Kelly is giving clothing advice on a show about food (This made it feel even more like E!’s red carpet specials, but Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t appear in a cape this time.). If he’s going to give advice, he should at least get Mario to take off those Crocs.

– Damanpreet Pelia

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