There is lots of potential for a show like this, but the production makes too many compromises, resulting in a bland, happy, uplifting, feel-good show with not a single ounce of tension. Specifically:
1) The students profiled are not green, naive freshmen. Instead, the show focuses on students who are taking their last course (International Cooking) before graduation. There could have been much entertainment value in seeing stupid beginning students getting scalded and burned, slicing off pieces of their fingers, getting yelled at by angry instructors, failing, and dropping out, going home completely dejected with their hopes dashed and their money lost. But the students on display are at the end of the program, by which time all of the screwups have been weeded out. The ones left are, to a man or woman, studious and skilled chefs-to-be with little uncertainty about their future prospects. Booooring.
2) The guy teaching the class (Chef Barber) is one of those gentle, self-esteem building instructors who is always quick with his praise and constructive with his criticism. Nobody ever gets a failing, or even mediocre grade for the dishes they prepare. Want to see some hapless student getting all emotional and crying after receiving less than flattering comments about the dish he just made ? Forget it !
3) The school this takes place at is Johnson & Wales, not the CIA. Granted, Johnson & Wales does have an excellent reputation and a tough program, but I want to see what goes on at the CIA because it has so much more mystery and aura. For that, the only option is Michael Ruhlman's "The Making of a Chef". It's a book, so you actually have to read it instead of just watching, but it is much more informative and entertaining than this show.
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