Celebrity cook-off is kind of off

As I have mentioned before, I’m not against a celebrity competition show.  Not only does it give the celebrities a chance to win money for a charity, but it gives us a chance to see them outside of their element.  It makes for very entertaining television.  However, there is a certain element that makes this type of television entertaining.  It needs to have big personality.  (A little drama and in-fighting never hurt either.)  Unfortunately, nobody told the Food Network about this requirement when they premiered “Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off.”

Let’s get right to the premise:  Food Network Stars Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri each pick a team made up for four celebrities.  They then mentor and coach these celebrities in cooking competitions.  Each week the person who cooked the worse will be voted off and sent home.  The last celebrity standing wins money for the charity of their choice (I do like that part.)  Think Top Chef meets X Factor.  Our celebrities (or “celebrities” rather) are Cheech Marin, Summer Sanders, Coolio, Taylor Dayne, Joey Fatone, Aaron Carter, Lou Diamond Phillips and Alyssa Campanella (the current Miss USA.  Yes, I had to google it too.)

The show starts with the celebrities meeting each other.  Their shocked reactions upon seeing each other tell us that either they are surprised to meet their new teammates or they were told celebrities would be on this show, so what are these people doing here?  (I’m guessing the latter is not the reason for the reaction, but was rather the question I was asking myself for an hour.)  We quickly learn fun facts about the celebrities, Miss USA likes to bake, Coolio is the Ghetto Gourmet, and Lou Diamond Phillips has turned kind of wacky and annoying since Young Guns 2.  That’s a shame.  Rachel and Guy arrive, pick teams ala dodge ball in elementary school (Taylor Dayne is the last one picked… don’t sit next to her at lunch, she has the cooties), and away we go.

The celebrities find out that they have to cook 1 dish each for 150 people at a food festival that Rachel and Guy are putting together.  The coaches begin to mentor their teams and each person’s dish.  Aaron Carter asks if pasta salad might work, and in true 30 minute meals style, Rachel suggests he do a jalapeño twist on the pasta salad.  Aaron has a hard time processing that so Lou Diamond Phillips so brilliantly points out that Aaron has a hard time absorbing information.  Yikes, I have a feeling that is going to be a problem for Aaron in life, not just in reality show competition.

When I originally heard about the show’s premise, I thought that they would be working together in the kitchen.  Separating the cooks to their own cooking station allows for little interaction with each other and a lot of concentration on their food.  Concentrating on cooking is good for whoever might have to eat it, but it makes for pretty boring television.  The only thing that entertained me during the cooking segment was the cookie I was eating while I watched this show.

The celebrity chefs finish their dishes and arrive at the food festival.  While we see a lot of people trying the food and commenting on the food, we don’t see much interaction with the celebrities and the crowd.  As the festival goes on, Joey Fatone and Miss USA become more interactive (Joey always was the nicest member of N Sync) but for the most part the celebrities are kept at a distance.  It would have been nice to really see their personalities shine through, especially while interacting with the fans, but unfortunately that didn’t really happen.  The only personality that really came through was Lou Diamond Phillips, but that was mostly due to him yelling out wacky things like “Turbo Ribs” at random times forcing everyone around him to uncomfortably laugh.  (I should also mention that I was very perplexed when Lou said he’s worked with Coolio before.  I smell bromance.)

Unfortunately, at the end of the show, Aaron Carter and his jalapeño popper macaroni salad was sent home.  Poor Aaron.  First he struggled to make a ranch dressing, then he overcooked the pasta, then he sang a song that wasn’t about the time he beat Shaq and then he got sent home.  Not fair.

I did have high hopes for this show because when reality competitions are done correctly, they really can be a lot of fun to watch.  This one lacked a human element that while, yes, certain other shows exploit, is needed to keep the show from being a bore.  And while a reality show on the food network should focus on the food, the food takes a back seat to the celebrity.  There really is no saving grace to this show (and one would expect Coolio to step up and fill the Gary Busey role that is missing but he’s too busy adding beans to tilapia.)

I think Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off is an interesting idea.  It just needs to be revamped with some personality, some food and what’s the other thing it’s missing?  Oh yeah, celebrities.


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