It’s late at night, you’re starving and the only food options you have in your kitchen are burger patties, Cool Whip, jelly beans and waffles. You’re doomed, right?
Wrong. Thanks to MTV’s newest show, “Snack-Off,” you’re about to feast on a gourmet snack, using every single item listed above. And it’s going to be tasty.
This new cooking competition series from the mind of Rob Dyrdek is unlike any food show you’ve seen on TV before, and yet, you have to wonder why it took MTV this long to think of it in the first place. The premise? Think “Chopped,” but all about snacks. The audience? College kids with late-night munchies. The judges? Comedian Yassir Lester, supermodel Chrissy Tiegen and chef Jason Quinn. The host? Hilarious chef Eddie Huang. It’s the perfect show for MTV.
Judge Lester couldn’t agree more. “It’s one of those things that I think will really change the American landscape in terms of how we eat, how we perceive food, how we look at food moving forward and decide that, hey, just because you’re eating sugar, fat, salt and everything in the middle doesn’t mean that it can’t look presentable, you know?” Lester tells Zap2it. “I say this as I’m eating a pile of almonds, exactly the opposite.”
Although Lester has no formal cooking background, he’s more than qualified for his spot on the judges’ panel. “I eat snacks! I’m perfect for this show!” Lester says with a laugh. “When I came in to audition, they made me eat like a peanut butter, licorice and bologna sandwich and I didn’t immediately die. So they gave me the job.”
But it’s more than just Lester’s iron gut that got him the job. “This is my life. Literally what I do, they’re making into a TV show. Yeah, I’m on board,” he says. “I was kind of mad they made me audition. I was like, you don’t understand, I do this stuff to live. This is how I survive. I would be dead if I didn’t know how to make ramen a little more entertaining.”
Lester can’t wait for viewers to take something away from watching “Snack-Off,” whether it’s for their own food enjoyment or someone else’s. “That’s the thing, the show really is using stuff that everyone has at home, but we’ll at least give you an idea of taking it in a different direction,” Lester says. “If you have a date night with your loved one and you’re like, ‘Okay all I have is cereal and hot sauce,’ this show will at least let you know how you can present it in a way that you can still show affection and not that you’re just the poorest person that they’ve ever dated.”
When it came time to eating the dishes the contestants made, Lester says that he was pretty much always surprised when they turned out to be delicious. “Instead of good things, there were more things that I was like, I can never eat this again,” Lester says with a laugh. “One dish had like canned oysters with a maraschino cherry on top of garlic toast, and I was like, ‘This is the moment where I lose vision. This is actually going to hurt my body.’ And I was right!”
While viewers will see some terrible dishes, Lester still can’t believe some of the dishes he wanted seconds of. “There was this other person who made these chicken croquettes with old fried chicken and tater tots and put them in a blender and made patties and deep fried them,” Lester says. “I was just like, ‘Oh my god! Where were you three years ago? I needed you!’ Someone made these amazing burgers with marshmallow toppings, stuff that you wouldn’t think would go together but it was just so good.”
He continues, “I can’t wait for people to see the kinds of dishes the contestants made, because each episode has one dish that is just so good that when people see it, they’re going to want to make it at home. But then the contestants are just so crazy, in a good way. Imagine a chef that deals exclusively in snacks on a MTV show, it’s going to blow people’s minds. They’re like wizards of food.”
But Lester has a warning for viewers. “Here’s the catch: This food is so good, and it looks so good, so I know people are going to start trying it at home, and it is really good,” Lester says. “But you can’t do this everyday. Like, everyone has all these food items at home, so they’re probably going to think, ‘Awesome I’m set for the next week for meals!’ But at the same time we need to stress, take care of yourself. This is not healthy in any way, shape or form.”
So what would Lester make if he were a contestant on “Snack-Off?” “I was surprised that no one did this, because I would take those Dole fruit cups that come in that sugary syrup and I would take biscuit dough and try to make a really dope mixed fruit pie or cobbler,” Lester says. “I think I could pull it off.”
After a pause, he laughs. “Nah, I need it to be known there’s no way I could do that,” he says. “Even if I had a week with those ingredients, I couldn’t pull it off. I’ll leave it to the professionals we found on the show.”
“Snack-Off” premieres Thursday (July 10) at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on MTV.