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 this is a relatively gentle outing in the reality competition category that skips most of the trash talking and interpersonal drama of typical fare. Contenders are humble and try hard to learn the lessons imparted by supervising chefs. The chefs themselves are sometimes a bit critical ("This is awful," "You're disappointing me,") and occasionally use mild language ("hell"), but never overly harsh as on other cooking shows. This is a nice glimpse of regular people learning to cook that may inspire kids who hope to create good food for themselves, if not for professional judges.
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What's the story?
On WORST COOKS IN AMERICA, 16 contestants who call themselves terrible cooks go through a two-week cooking boot camp led by professional chefs, including Iron Chef America's Anne Burrell. On each episode, chefs are drilled on an aspect of cooking, including knife skills, baking, seasoning, and the like. They are then asked to prepare dishes that display these skills. In the meantime, Burrell and the other pro chef compete against each other to produce the most improved cooks. One by one, contestants are eliminated, until the two best of the worst cooks prepare a three-course meal for professional judges. The cook who makes the best meal wins $25,000, and the chef who instructed him or her gets bragging rights.
Is it any good?
Watching nonprofessionals get better at something difficult is both inspirational and interesting, and makes up for the distress of hearing the contenders run themselves down when they start the competition. The supervising chefs can get a little bit cranky with contestants, rushing them in the kitchen, or condemning the dishes they have made. Still, this may prove fun for parents who like to cook to watch with kids who need a little coaxing to try their hand in the kitchen.
Overall, the excitement delivered by both the mishaps (lots of kitchen fires and spills!) and the victories make this fun family fare. Kids will root for their favorite personalities and might even learn something in the process.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether cooking is an important skill. Do you really need to know how to cook to feed yourself? What are the benefits of meals cooked and eaten at home?
Do you think the judges pick contestants solely on their cooking skills? Or do the most colorful and interesting contestants tend to stick around?
Does it bother you that the cooks, particularly on the first shows of the season, tend to downplay their skills? Do you feel sorry for them? Do you think their view of themselves as a "bad cook" keeps them from learning how to cook?
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