House of Food — MTV gives a Real World twist to the culinary competition genre, pulling out the best elements of both types of programming.
House of Food, Mondays 10pm on MTV.
Seven twenty-somethings compete for an exclusive culinary apprenticeship while living together in a swanky Los Angeles pad.
MTV is the patient zero of “seven people living in a house” genre. As for the culinary aspect, the instructors/chefs have their bona fides. Brooke Williamson is a James Beard winner, Casey Lane has been nominated for James Beard awards, and lead instructor Brendan Collins has a Michelin 3 Star restaurant.
Despite being on MTV, this did not devolve into drunken fighting within three minutes of everyone arriving in the house.1 Although the series is a competition, it does not adhere to an elimination-based format. The chefs’ primary goal is to educate the participants, which is a refreshing twist on the Iron Top Hell’s Cook Network Star in America concept.
However, since the goal is education, the chefs do not pull their punches. If you think Gordon Ramsay comes off as cruel, the critiques on House of Food will probably make you cry. The opening challenge asked the seven participants to present a plate that displayed each person’s personality. Everything from technique to flavor to time management was evaluated and decimated. Although the participants do have the veneer of reality television participants, most were self-aware enough to accept the criticisms as constructive, hurtful as those critiques may have been at the time. The chefs do provide a warning that anyone can be replaced at any time by any of the thousands of show applicants, which is something that needs to happen more frequently on television.
What Doesn’t Work
Since House of Food airs on MTV, there are the unnecessary earmarks of being an MTV program. The soundtrack tends to be intrusive and not always relevant to what happens on-screen. The participants also approach the competition as if it were The Challenge or America’s Next Top Sous Chef, which does not work in an academic setting.2 However, I like seeing aspiring chefs at the beginning stages of their careers and I can’t think of a network other than MTV that would be able to program the show.
My only other issue with House of Food is how the first episode ended. The seven students were dismissed from the kitchen and told they would return home until a curriculum was developed. They will then return to a different house and begin the process in earnest. This gave the entire episode an overwhelming feeling of being a pilot. I would not be surprised if there are some cast changes next week.
I’m in, at least until the first late-night drunken argument of if it veers to much into ANTSC territory. The current cast is interesting enough and the education should be fascinating to watch.