Friday, October 26, 2018

Flashback Friday - Time Machine Chefs Recap

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on August 17, 2012.

I might have used this as a Flashback Friday post before. I cracked myself up reading it, I thought I'd use it again.


Did anyone watch Time Machine Chefs last night? No worries, because I watched it for you! Yes, I sacrificed an hour of my life to this entirely fake "reality" cooking competition show that ripped off everything from Top Chef to Doctor Who. Yes, I said "Doctor Who."

It really was quite remarkable.

The four contestants are no strangers to reality cooking competitions: Art Smith and Chris Cosentino are currently hating on each other on the fourth season of Top Chef Masters; Ilan Hall was the winner of Top Chef season 2; Jill Davie made a valiant attempt at being the Food Network's Next Iron Chef (but failed). Rather than competing for money for themselves or for a charity, the four are vying for the title of "Best Chef in History." How is that possible? It's really not. For one thing, there were probably far better chefs in the long history of cuisine than Art Smith and Jill Davie.

Anyhoo...the four intrepid travelers enter a giant set at the center of which is a huge blue Tardis. I mean...old-fashioned refrigerator which serves as their time machine. A Re-Tardis, if you will. The super-annoying Brooke Peterson, supposed "lifestyle expert" and otherwise loud/shrill blond, plays the role of Curtis Stone. She tells the chefs they will be traveling through time to cook, and the chefs pretend to get excited. Art Smith wants to end up in the court of Marie Antoinette because he wants to wear tights and a powdered wig, and Ilan Hall wants to roll out matzoh balls for Jesus at the Last Supper. He'd probably put bacon in them.

Peterson herds the chefs into the fridge and closes the door. Then some cheesy special effects take over and suddenly the Re-Tardis disappears...

...and reappears in China, 1416 AD - the Ming Dynasty. Or a Hollywood backlot made up to look like a market, with actors dressed up in coolie hats.

The chefs pretend to be excited. Suddenly, we see that Brooke has a completely different outfit and hairstyle, and for several minutes I'm not sure it's the same person, but another bland loud blond who is taking over the China leg of the tour.

She brings out the judges for the competition - Nancy Silverton, from LaBrea Bakery and Mozza, with obviously-dyed hair; Dave Arnold from the French Culinary Institute; and Silvena Rowe, chef from Quince at London's May Fair Hotel.

Silvena needs a show of her own. She's a big, imposing bottle blond from Bulgaria, with a tough manner. Art Smith is immediately afraid she's going to crack his head open like a walnut between her powerful thighs. And you know he wants to get nowhere near a woman's thighs.

It's explained that in China, Peking Duck reigns supreme (at least in Peking, maybe, sorta) and that despite not having the same modern conveniences as chefs do today, Ming Dynasty cooks were masters at achieving very crisp skin. The secret is to separate the skin from the meat by inflating the bird. Silvena happily demonstrates the technique - she grabs a duck, puts it to her mouth, and blows. Art's gonads immediately get sucked into his body cavity, but Chris Cosentino is turned on.

Each chef has to make a dish of crispy duck skin, and utilize any of the rest of the duck as they please. But first they have to light a communal outdoor oven, which Cosentino handles by rubbing things together to create a spark. No lighter fluid or charcoal chimneys in 1416! The four set to cooking, and Cosentino tries out Silvena's duck inflation method.

Ilan gets started by cutting off his duck's head and stuffing it before hanging it over the fire to roast. Jill Davie is running around like a duck with her head cut off, confused, and Art Smith is busy dropping celebrity names.

The end of the cooking time is signaled by a round of firecrackers going off, and the chefs' dishes are brought to the judging panel. Happily, they are all quite harsh in their criticisms, and Silvena especially seems to enjoy bringing the pain. She did, however, appreciate that Chris used her "blowing technique" on the duck skin.

The chefs are told that only three of them will get to travel back in the Re-Tardis, and one of them will be stuck there in China. Ilan and Chris are safe, and while we're hoping that Art Smith will be abandoned, it's Jill Davie who gets to spend her days in the past. (Eyeroll)

The three remaining chefs re-enter the Re-Tardis with Brooke Peterson and head off to another place and time. Their second destination is England in the time of King Henry the 8th, ca. 1532.

Their task there is to prepare a simple Sunday supper fit for a King. King Henry was fond of something called a "cockentrice" which is like an Old World turducken - several different beasts combined to make one new beast.

The beasts provided to the chefs are cod, suckling pig, venison, lamb, and peacock, and they are to use at least three of them to create their dish, which must be cooked on a rotisserie in a large fireplace. But first...they are introduced to their sous chefs.

Three women in period dress walk in with three tiny dogs wearing neck ruffles and leashes. Cosentino wonders for a moment if he's supposed to hold the dog while he's cooking before he's told that the cute little critters will be put into wheels which, once the dogs start running within them, will turn the crank that controls the rotisserie. That seems a little cruel, but once the dogs are put into the wheels, they dutifully start running, and the spits rotate at a nice speed.

This time, to signify the 2.5 hour cooking time is over, a candle has been stuck with nails. As the candle melts, the nails fall out. When the last nail falls, time is up. Rather clever, but Art doesn't understand.

Art is completely annoying. A shame he wasn't left in China. He flirts with Ilan, who may or may not be uncomfortable with it.

Eventually, the chefs get their beasts assembled. Chris started out with a deboned pig face, which collapses on the spit. He goes to alternate plan B, which is to turn it into a soup. Ilan uses a spit-roasted lamb's skull as the front of his cockentrice and inserts a peacock head into its mouth, Alien-style. His creature is the most fantastical and uses the most meats. Art's creature is just a hodgepodge, and not as well-designed as that of either of his competitors.

The judges enter to check out the spread and dine. With their hands.

They like Chris' a lot. Ilan's was the creepiest, but also on the chewy side. Art's was tasty, but not so hot looking. Brooke tells the chefs that two of them will be stuck in the Tudor period, and Ilan says, if he's one of them, he hopes he can find a job cooking. He also mentions that he has "weird man boobs," which I don't think we needed to know.

And then the judges quickly decide that Chris Cosentino is the Greatest Chef in History and put a tacky medal around his neck. What? I thought this was a series, and that the four of these chefs would be competing for several weeks, cooking in several different times and places, before someone was crowned a winner. But it seems this show is a one-off, which is a shame, because it was so cheesy, scripted, and awful that I really enjoyed it.

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