Take eight couples, two restaurants, and one feisty chef and you get NBC's latest reality series, The Chopping Block. Think of it as a mix of a dozen other shows you've already seen, some of which you've actually enjoyed. Seriously though, it's a show where folks are competing to start their own restaurant and it seems like an awfully good time.
The first challenge of the series was a pretty straightforward one — each team (Red and Black) had 15 minutes to get as much food off of a truck as they possibly could. As it was the food they were going to be cooking the next night and each chef was going to have to make a dish for Marco, everyone went around like a chicken with their head cut off rather than organizing themselves and developing a plan.
As Marco explained it, the key to the challenge was to see if the teams would employ a strategy. I'm not sure I buy that for a minute, I'm pretty convinced that while it was hypothetically possible for the chefs to employ a strategy, the real goal was to get them running around and freaking out on film. Mission accomplished!
Clearly Marco likes to extrapolate big ideas from little actions. We saw that again when, after tasting Kelsey's chicken and risotto, he said to the camera that the food being bland told him that Kelsey was bland. Really? I wonder what he would have thought if she'd done something with cellophane noodles. It wasn't all bland news though, Marco did like some of food he tasted, particularly Lisa's veal chop. He made her Red's head chef for the week.
Over on the Black side things were far more exciting. As they were cooking for Marco, their restaurant's Salamander broiler fell off the wall onto the stovetop and then the glass window on one of their ovens shattered. It was as though they were being sabotaged. Perhaps Gordon Ramsay got wind of Marco heading stateside and wanted to end his aspirations before they went too far.
No glass ended up in the Black team's food, but Marco still didn't like three of the four dishes. Than, who cooked chicken, ended up as their head chef for the week.
Service was quickly upon us and the teams were unaware that there would be a critic at the service deciding which team lost. It's a trick that won't work twice, but something that the teams will almost certainly ruin in future weeks anyway. Poor Zan (Than's brother), he failed to pronounce the "t" in "claret" when talking to the critic. That's the kind of thing a critic notices. They also notice barcodes from price tags on plates, which the critic saw at the Black restaurant too. Plus, to round out his meal there, undercooked chicken was served to his table. That's a big no-no people, that can make you sick.
The biggest problem our critic had over at the Red team was that he didn't like the desserts. He also couldn't order the filet mignon because they were out of it and felt that he ought to have been seated before the people who (it seemed the way the show cut it) arrived prior to him. But, those last two are somewhat less important than his disgust with the dessert.
If the show was at all honest with us to that point, there was no way the Black team was going to win. Sure enough, after the critic got through discussing his experiences, Red came away the victor for the week.
During the Black team's elimination discussion with Marco, it quickly began to look as though Than and Zan would be sent home. Than was in charge of the kitchen, and while fingers could be pointed at other chefs (like Angie), it was a general breakdown that cost the Black team the victory, and that lay on Than's shoulders.
It should have been Than and Zan who went home. But it wasn't. Marco was going to eliminate them (he said as much), and then Khoa piped up. He talked about how he didn't like the attitude around the place and said that he and Denise would bow out. Seriously, they quit because people were fighting. I guess he's never seen a reality show before.
Marco accepted it gracefully, and he suggested that all we could do was to give Khoa respect. With that in mind, I'll say no more about it. I don't like it and I don't like Zan, but I'll accept it.
Bits and pieces:
- Perhaps the most interesting difference we saw between the two restaurants tonight was Marco telling Lisa in the Red kitchen to take food out if servers weren't doing it. He explained that it would pressure the servers and get them to step up their game. Angie tried that in the Black kitchen only to be lambasted by Zan. Marco wasn't there yet or I'm sure he would have applauded Angie's move. In fact, during the elimination discussion the incident was brought up, and Marco appeared to nod in agreement with Angie (though that could have been done with editing).
- I don't know about you, but I really like Marco thus far. He has the look of a guy who can be very scary and forceful, but he didn't randomly rip into people, nor was he over the top when he expressed his displeasure. Great presence, great attitude.
- So, one episode down, one team gone, what's your verdict, are you liking The Chopping Block so far? Me, I think I do. It's not perfect, but it seems like it could be fun.
The TV and Film Guy's Reviews – we pressure our servers all we can.