Chef Academy

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Chef Academy TV Poster Image
Cooking contest's formula isn't really fresh, but it's fun.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show's emphasis is on learning and working hard as a means to success -- but it also has plenty of typical reality show bickering and other shenanigans.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Novelli is a proven professional (although his uncouth behavior can be a little unnerving) with a goal of transforming unseasoned cooks into real chefs. The students who stick around have to work hard and learn new skills to stay in the game, and it's a character-building experience.


Some heated verbal sparring, and students occasionally cut themselves with sharp knives (a small amount of blood is shown).


Novelli was named "World's Sexiest Chef," a title that's highlighted fairly often. One female contestant likes to bare her cleavage in the kitchen, while a male constestant is rumored to be a porn star. One shot of a man from behind wearing nothing but an apron.


Some bleeped swearing in tense situations (think "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as audible words like "crappy" and "frickin'."


The show is pretty much a long-form advertisement for Novelli and his cooking school (he already has a school in Hertfordshire, England, but this is his first in the United States). Several brand names are also featured in the school's kitchen, including GE and Cuisinart.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional alcohol consumption by adults in social situations.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, in general, this cooking reality show features positive role modeling, with participants putting their talents and energy toward a worthy goal: learning how to cook like a professional. That said, there's some bleeped swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and blatant consumerism, in the sense that the series serves as an ongoing advertisement for the Novelli School, as well as for specific brands (including Cuisinart and GE) featured in the academy's kitchen. At least one episode also concerns a rumor that a contestant is a former porn star, with an accompanying shot of a male contestant shown from behind wearing nothing but an apron.

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What's the story?

In CHEF ACADEMY, world-renowned French gourmand Jean-Christophe Novelli welcomes nine culinarily minded students into his shiny new cooking school in Venice, Calif., and attempts to transform them into well-oiled professionals. Some have training; some don't. But they're all trying to impress Novelli by mastering his culinary techniques and passing every new test that's put in front of them. (After all, once a student fails three times, he or she is sent packing.) Meanwhile, the head chef is settling his pregnant fiancee, Michelle, into their swanky West Coast apartment with help from his "temporary" American assistant, Joel.

Is it any good?

You could make the argument that we don't really need another reality-style cooking competition on television -- and on the same network as genre stalwart Top Chef, no less. But Chef Academy at least makes the attempt to switch it up by offering a glimpse of Novelli's personal life and including several relatively inexperienced home cooks among its slate of competitors. In that sense, it's much easier for viewers at home to relate and feel like they, too, could give it a go ... which could be precisely what Novelli has in mind.

Orange County housewife Suzanne Winn is a surefire standout, and it's not just because her platinum hair and cleavage make her look like a casting reject from The Real Housewives of Orange County. As it turns out, the woman can make some delicious fruit compote. But she's also the most entertaining person on the show by far, given her habit of spouting random one-liners at the camera, including "Film at 11!" "I'm a ci-vil-i-an" and "Will Rogers! [sic] Emergency! Emergency!" Novelli's own fondness for old episodes of Columbo (and his Peter Falk impersonation that goes along with it) is also kind of endearing. So we'll keep watching ... at least until Suzanne serves up that third fail.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Novelli might have agreed to participate in the show given his established reputation in the world of food. What does he get out of it, and how does he stand to benefit from its success? Does the show pose any risks to his career?

  • How "real" do you think what you're seeing actually is? How do you think this show compares to other reality shows in that sense?

  • How is consumerism woven into the show? Which brands are frequently mentioned, and why? Is it because they're the best or because companies paid for their brands to be prominently featured?

TV details

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