A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S. is a cooking competition show that pits crews from different countries against each other for a mostly good-natured contest. But contestants are under constant pressure, and some react badly by cursing ("f--k" bleeped) or insulting others. Contestants also sometimes slam down ingredients on counters and gossip about judges or contestants in behind-the-scenes interviews. Some of the male contestants are sexist towards the female cooks, calling them "girls" and showing preference to the male chefs. Working smoothly on teams is praised by team members and judges, who also penalize contestants for unethical acts, and commend teams who uphold good standards. Judges are not unduly harsh on contestants, and their criticism is not personally insulting. There is some drinking, and lots of tense situations filmed in beautiful and interesting locations in the United States.
What's the story?
Produced by chef Jamie Oliver and hosted by the Food Network's Claire Robinson and English chef Richard Corrigan, CHEF RACE: U.K. VS. U.S., features British and American chefs competing against each other to win cooking competitions while traveling across America. Contestants are given very limited supplies and various challenges, i.e. they have to butcher and sell an entire side of bison. While completing the challenges and trying to make as much money as possible, chefs must make their way to an American location where they undergo a timed cooking competition. The winning chef and his or her team is given a competitive advantage to get to the next location, such as a car to drive. Each episode culminates in a challenge in which one contestant is eliminated. The final chef standing wins $100,000.
Is it any good?
The television DNA out of which Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S. is constructed is clear right from the title: It's The Amazing Race meets Top Chef. And that's not an insult. Turns out these two watchable and popular shows play well together, with the pleasurable tension of watching chefs cook under pressure harmonizing nicely with travel stress and picturesque location shoots. Contestants make their way from spot to spot by any means possible, up to and including begging strangers in the street to let the chefs come in and cook for them. It's awful watching the chefs reduced to desperation, but uplifting when their efforts pay off successfully. And as is usual on cooking shows, it's fun watching chefs make lovely plates of food from sometimes off-putting ingredients.
Hosts Richard Corrigan and Claire Robinson are natural and not overly harsh on contestants. Criticism of food and ethics is pointed but fair and never devolves into personal insults. For their parts, contestants accept criticism humbly with a "Yes, Chef" that will no doubt warm the hearts of parents of back-talking teens and tweens. This is suitable for whole-family watching, particularly for families with culinary enthusiasts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why nearly all the chefs on the show are on the young and good-looking side. Do the people you see cooking at the restaurants you visit look like these chefs?
Why do you think Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S. chose to divide contestants into country teams? How does the history of U.S. and U.K. relations make a battle between the two countries more fraught?
Why do the creators of Chef Race: U.K. vs. U.S. often ask contestants to cook with unusual ingredients like pigs' feet and offal?