NBC's Celebrity Cooking Showdown premiered last night after weeks of less-than-optimistic reviews. The show, in case you missed it, is Dancing with the Stars meets Iron Chef America. A celebrity, of whom the most famous is Tom Arnold, is paired with a real chef, either Cat Cora, Wolfgang Puck or Govind Armstrong. The chef must attempt to train the celebrity to cook in a mini "boot camp", after which the celebrity and chef will face off Iron Chef-style against another team. Confused?
Last night's premier episode featured the following teams: Cindy Margolis and Wolfgang Puck, Tony Gonzalez and Cat Cora, Alison Sweeney and Govind Armstrong. When the show began, the celebs came out. Cindy was almost not wearing a shirt, Tony was twice as tall as Cat and Cat's hair was styled professionally, like it never is on Iron Chef America. Alison was wearing a short dress, but seemed to have more culinary prowess than the others based on her cooking-lesson clip.
The celebrities started cooking on their own, using recipes they learned to prepare in advance. Two ingredients were missing from their mise en place (set-up) that the celebs had to identify and retrieve from the pantry. Their chefs mostly coached from the sidelines, but were allowed to come in for a few two-minute "Chef passes" to help out. They also came in for the last 5-minutes of the competition to assist in plating.
The official judges awarded scores on presentation and flavor when the cooking was done. The dished had to sit out for the whole judging, so the first contestant to go, Cindy had a big advantage over her competition. Cindy's salad was great, but the judges didn't think her beef was spicy enough. Tony's dessert wowed the judges, but there was too much vodka in his vodka sauce. Alison's lobster was perfectly cooked, but her tenderloin was stuffed with too much cheese. Cindy's total score: 34/40. Alison: 31/40. Tony: 33/40. Cindy, the winner, will return on Thursday night to try to repeat her victorious performance.
I thought that Alison did a much better job at staying organized and seemed to have a better grasp of cooking than her opponents. The audience, which could vote for their favorite during the show, agreed with me and backed Alison to win. Tony seemed to be completely out of his element, but maintained a positive attitude. Both Alison and Tony were slightly disadvantaged, not only because their dishes had to sit around, but because one of the judges disliked cheese, which really affected their scores negatively. Overall, I can't say that I loved the show. I'd rather watch Iron Chef America, especially given that the network hardly aired any of the cooking lessons that the celebs received prior to the actual competition.
The show will air tonight through Friday at 8pm. The judging to determine the winner of the series will be done live, by viewers, on Thursday night after a final showdown of the winners from Monday - Wednesday, and the grand champion will be announced on Friday. Will you be watching?