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Friday, February 15

Review: Ultimate Recipe Showdown

Ultimate Recipe Showdown
is like Iron Chef for regular folks… if you strip out the excitement of a secret ingredient, cooking in real-time, world class chefs, and the eccentric, campy charm of the original Japanese show and instead replace that all with a non-secret ingredient cooked by too many challengers per episode, jerkily edited cooking segments that barely hold your interest, regular home cooks, and the forced, witless humor of none other than Guy Fieri. Throw in the do-no-wrong credibility-infusing Marc Summers, and you still have a pretty weak show. In short, I didn’t love it.

Each of the six episodes of this limited series features nine challengers—three per each of the three rounds—competing for the chance to win $25,000 and the honor of having his or her recipe appear nationwide on T.G.I. Friday’s menu. You got that? 6 + 9 + 3 + 25,000 = Friday’s … or something like that.

The premiere episode, chicken, is divided up into the three rounds: fried, soups & stews, and whole roasted chicken recipes. Competitors are judged by Katherine Alford (Director, Food Network Test Kitchen), Kerry Simon (chef and partner at SIMON LA, Simon at Palms Place and CatHouse at the Luxor) and Russ Parsons (Food Columnist, The Los Angeles Times) and scored on creativity, appearance, ease of execution and taste.

The competitors take the stage in what’s billed as the “Kitchen Stadium-like” URS Arena and quickly prepare their various dishes—that is if they have much of anything left to prepare. There’s apparently no time limit and URS allows competitors to cook portions of their dish in advance if “extended preparation” is needed. I’m not a fan of this, as timed cooking is one of the few ways shows like these can effectively even the playing field. If a competitor is allowed to do heavy preparation in advance, that doesn’t bode well for another competitor who may try to shorten or eliminate steps in a recipe just to cook in a reasonable amount of time on TV. These types of changes could potentially diminish creativity, appearance, execution and taste—all of the categories upon which they are being judged.

While the dishes themselves are interesting and somewhat-exotic, you barely notice them over all of the cut-aways to both contestant interviews and commentators Marc Summers and Guy Fieri, whose stories and attempt at amusing banter is severely lacking when compared to Alton Brown’s expert commentary on Iron Chef America.

After a winner is chosen from each of the three categories, the three finalists join Marc and Guy on the “grand prize stage” (yet another needless game show term) to hear their scores. In a very anti-climactic reading of the scores, we find out the winner.

The whole spectacle just has too much of everything—too many hosts, too many challengers, too many dramatic pauses (there seems to be a horrible battle within reality competitions to see who can hold the longest dramatic pause), too many lights and lasers and sound effects… just too much hype. I found myself bored throughout my various attempts to get through the episode, hoping that something would eventually grab my attention. Nothing ever did.

In a television world in which nothing is ever overdone (Lie detector game show? Sure. America’s Sexiest Fetus? Absolutely.), the producers just seemed to throw a little bit of everything into URS in the hopes that something would work.

Food Network’s attempt to present “the best” from its viewers is admirable. There's a lot of talent in the audience and many willing to show us what they've got. Unfortunately, this lackluster Iron Chef wannabe just isn't the place.

Ultimate Recipe Showdown premieres Sunday, Feb. 17 at 9pm ET on Food Network.

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At 2/15/2008 2:53 PM , Anonymous Harry Martin said...

Great review -- and thanks for putting so much time into it. I have to admit that I have a problem in general with FN's obsession with timed-cooking contests. You never see painters given a subject and told to create something in 60 minutes, minus commercials. Why should a creative cook have to do the same? Of course, my second beef is FN's obsession with throwing Guy Fieri in as many shows as possible. He irks me to no end with the affected hair, the affected sunglasses, the affected phrases and the affected clothing "style." His effect is nothing but affected. In the promos, I was pleased to finally see him in a sport coat, yet he *still* had shorts on! Get me a gun! I'll pass on this, as I do with most any other FN shows aimed at the lowest common denominator.

At 2/15/2008 3:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A woman could never get away with looking like that on the air. Why is it okay for Guy Fieri to be a fat slob?

At 2/15/2008 3:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, J! I won't bother wasting my time on yet ANOTHER crappy FN show!

At 2/15/2008 4:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review, crappy show. I will not be wasting my time on this. Guy's style is enough to keep me away.

At 2/15/2008 4:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/16/2008 2:52 PM , Anonymous Alec Smart said...

I am not sure Guy Fieri really deserves to be where he is.

Marc Summers, yes he has paid his dues but Guy ( i wanna be 22 again) Fieri is a no talent buffoon with a huge ego with nothing to back it up.

Another FN fault is that they throw people into a fire with much preparation.

Fat or not, 42 or 22, he doesn't deserve to be on TV. Oh wait, maybe he can pitch Magic Bullets or something.

At 2/17/2008 7:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slightly OT, but I don't get why Guy's in the new California food promotion (The Land of Wine and Food). Every other California-based food personality except for Thomas Keller passed and Guy was, like, #283rd on the list? Guy doesn't strike me as an expert in anything except looking like Super Sonic the Hedgehog after too many chili dogs.

At 2/17/2008 10:08 PM , Blogger jacob said...

harry: glad you enjoyed it. I get what you mean about timed contests not always being fair, but it just seemed like it would be helpful for this particular show. I feel you about Guy, too.

anon: cuz he's off the hook! ;-)

anon: yeah... it's not for me, but someone might like it.

jessica: the show is pretty Guy-heavy, so you're probably right in staying away if you're not into him.

alec: i'd sure he'd think of some amazing sayings to sell those little blenders.

rd: he does look like sonic! thanks for pointing that out.

At 2/18/2008 11:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to watch last night but it was a total snooze fest. I thought it might be better but it was so boring. I swithched the channel before seeing a third of it. oh well.

At 2/18/2008 2:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine what it must have been like for the contestants. It takes an entire day to make a 30minute show.

At 2/18/2008 4:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read over at TWOP that it took 12hours to film and there were still swap outs.

At 2/18/2008 6:00 PM , Blogger Shelley said...

I entered recipes for this contest, and I was eager to see the first episode. HUGE disappointment! The contestants look absolutely terrified, not like they were having fun even a tiny bit. And the "winner/loser" announcements dragged on so long it wasn't just hideously boring, it made me embarrassed that I didn't change the channel and watch polar bears on PBS instead.

One of my dinner guests watching with us asked a great question about Guy Fieri. "Does he even OWN a pair of pants?"

At 2/18/2008 6:37 PM , Anonymous Kevin said...

All your comments amaze me. I LIKE Guy Fieri, and thought he was funny last night on the show. His cooking show is one of the best on FN. And I would like to see him on some other shows where he can use his humor more freely.

"Does he own a pair of pants?" Does Mario own any real shoes? Does the Semi-Ho own a bra? Does Bobby Flay own a personality?

But I am a heterosexual male in my mid-forties, so what do I know.

At 2/18/2008 7:52 PM , Anonymous Mussakka said...

I'd suggest that maybe liking Guy "Fee-Eddie" is a straight thing and we can't relate, but I have far too many hetero friends who are as appalled by him as the rest of us.

Recent reviews and tales of FN anymore make me glad I canceled my cable subscription.

At 2/19/2008 1:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Guy but I thought the show was horrible. Looking forward to Top Chef next month.

At 2/20/2008 12:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get it. The host are a bitannoying sure but the cooks were fun, some of the food looked good and the judges seemed interested and fair...

At 2/22/2008 12:13 PM , Blogger Tablebread said...

I've been meaning to comment on this one for a while. I watch the show and I guess I really didn't get it. Recipe contests are cool and all but that's basically what the FN Challenges were. (Remember the burger challenge? No professional chef's all home cooks.) So what's with the new show? I will be honest the whole format had a feeling of the World Poker Tour show. Seriously, I was waiting for one of them to go all-in and everyone would start clapping.

FN: You've saddened me again.

At 2/29/2008 6:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

why can't I find the recipes for all the burgers?

At 3/02/2008 10:00 PM , Anonymous billyjim said...

would somebody muzzle Katherine Alford??? She talks way too much!
She adds very little in knowledge, add lots in annoying.

At 3/02/2008 10:00 PM , Anonymous billyjim said...

would somebody muzzle Katherine Alford??? She talks way too much!
She adds very little in knowledge, add lots in annoying.

At 3/17/2008 1:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only is Guy a fat slob, his food sucks. If you walk into his restaurant the food quality is poor and tasteless.
I turn the tv off anytime he is on.... get rid of him. Food network has lost a lot of creditability.

At 3/31/2008 12:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm discouraged by the Food Network for several reasons and this show topped it so far.
It amazes me that they advertise fast food but tout 'fresh" ingredients on the shows; and they encourage their celebrity hosts in these endorsements: AppleBees (Tyler Florence), Dunkin' Donuts (Rachel Ray), and now Friday's (Guy Fieri) which has the worst food, obviously pre-frozen, tasteless fare. It unauthenticates them and the entire network.
The Ultimate Recipe Showdown is so bogus. One can guess which recipe is going to win just by its title and ingredients as the one most likely to be seen on a Friday's menu. And the judges, particularly the woman, is "acting" and schmoozing for the advertiser (Friday's). Isn't this obvious to anyone else but me? And why is Guy Fierir so hailed with multiple shows, now? He must work cheap, not to mention his image is distturbing -- I mean, C'mon -- what's with that ridiculous hair?!

At 1/13/2009 3:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ouch, harsh. I liked the show -- although Guy seems to be getting a lot of air time lately. I think it would have been fun if Guy and Summer hosted together. I wouldn't mind being one of those poor saps cooking up one my recipes :D

At 1/28/2009 7:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2/03/2009 3:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK Is it me or is this Russ Parsons judge a total and complete jerk or what???!!! Nothing makes this guy happy or satisfied. I cant even watch this show due to all his stuck up aparent picky snobby tastes. Hello.....These people cooking are not professionals nor do they own restraunts.

At 12/25/2009 9:22 PM , Blogger z said...

That Fieri person samples the food like there won't be any food tomorrow. Does he have to cram it in his face so that it looks like he's going to unhinge his jaw? How about a normal bite you fatass. What a pig.

At 5/16/2010 7:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone on this blog who says negative things about Guy Fieri just needs to shut their trap. You're obviously just jealous for the fact that he is on the food network and getting all of this attention. Honestly, I like him. I think he is very funny. Tho I can admit some of his outfits are crazy, but the fact remains that you people have no lives bashing other people. If you don't like the show, keep it to yourself!! This should be about people who actually like the show, not those who hate it. Guy Fieri is a big guy, but it doesn't give you the right to make fun of him. So I say take your negative reviews and shove them up your FAT SLOBBISH ASSES!!

At 5/24/2011 11:17 PM , Anonymous black apron said...

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At 6/07/2011 2:50 AM , Blogger peny113 said...

The Ultimate Recipe Showdown has its own downside and good side, though it varies because people have different perception of what is good and perfect. I love cooking shows, and whatever name of the show, if I particularly learn from it, then I consider that show good, eh.



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