Monday, November 17, 2008

best Food Network show ever

The best Food Network show ever is, in my opinion, "The Chef Jeff Project," which was easily the most emotionally engaging show that FN has ever produced. I didn't have the chance to watch every single episode, but the ones I did watch-- including this Sunday's finale-- left me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Hats off to Chef Jeff Henderson for giving six young, disadvantaged people a chance to make something of their lives. It was a relief finally to see a cooking show that wasn't about mind games or absurd time limits or all the other trash I normally associate with "reality" TV. And as my mother noted, "The Chef Jeff Project" didn't feature a martinet of a boss who screams obscenities at his proteges the entire hour, "Hell's Kitchen" style.

I fervently hope there'll be a Season 2 of CJP; the concept is a worthy one, and CJP is for me the perfect complement to the Travel Channel's über-introspective "No Reservations" with Anthony Bourdain. I like both shows, CJP and NR, though for very different reasons. Bourdain is basically a collector of experiences; his show is all about interiority. CJP features, by contrast, a host whose primary concern isn't himself so much as the young people in his care.

I imagine both shows appeal to me because I've got my self-indulgent, navel-gazing side, but I also deeply and sincerely enjoy teaching (I confess I'm a sucker for corny-but-inspirational teacher movies like "Lean on Me" and "Stand and Deliver"). Watching Chef Jeff do his thing is a pleasure. I admire his accomplishments, not only for his work with the youth but also because he had pulled himself out of a downward spiral and runs his own catering business.

Worthwhile TV. It does exist.


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