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Thursday, October 9

The Chef Jeff Project

The Chef Jeff Project premieres this Sunday at 10pm ET and I'm not sure what to think about it. It's an "issue" type of reality show—a format that (as far as I know) Food Network has never taken on before.

So should it?

Food Network knows how to do a few things well. It can do lighthearted (Robin Miller, Sunny). It can do comedy (Sandra Lee, Paula Deen, Ace of Cakes). It can do sexy (Giada, Dave, Ellie, Alton). It can even pull off semi-serious instructional (Essence of Emeril, Ina).

But one thing I don't think it can do is sad.

And even though I know the show is supposed to be uplifting and promises to show us how "through the power of food" lives can be changed, ehhhhh... I just don't know if I will want to watch that on a Sunday night, only to see Guy Fieri's big mug pop onto the screen 2 minutes after hearing about someone growing up homeless and being addicted to drugs.

It kind of reminds me of the times when Oprah does a "serious" episode. She could have been jumping up and down the day before giving away microwaves and suddenly, the next day, Oprah's got the lights all low, the set darkened, and all of her voiceovers are magically zapped of their happiness and replaced with the "sad show" voiceovers. (In a serious voice: "Guests of the Oprah Winfrey show stay at the all-suite Omni Hotel, located in the heart of Chicago's magnificent mile.")

It's that incongruousness that gives me pause.

And even though Food Network has shown they can be successful with new and different show formats (Ace of Cakes!), it's never gone this different. The fact that Chef Jeff spent a decade in prison certainly gives some street cred to the network, though.

What do you think?

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54 Comments:

At 10/09/2008 11:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the Food Network needs something fresh and a bit out of the ordinary. I've been very disappointed with the network as of late, because their overuse of "cartoon characters" in their cooking shows. It's just gotten too goofy (great example - Pauler's Party).

And Guy Fieri? Please. I saw the cretin at the Food and Wine Festival at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. He spent more time hamming it up for the camera and jabbering about himself. The sad thing was that he burned a relatively simple dish...noodles with veggies and chicken. Or as he called it "Hong Kong Noodles." How in the hell do you burn noodles?

Anyway....I'm looking forward to watching "The Chef Jeff Project." I hope the show can prove that an African American doesn't have to play up to a "comedic" stereotype to get laughs....Aaron McCargo....Pat Neeley...get a clue.

 
At 10/09/2008 11:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

...what I meant to say in the last paragraph was, "......to play up to a "comedic" stereotype to be taken seriously......"

This is what happens when you don't proof-read.

 
At 10/10/2008 12:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wondered how long would it take Aaron's name to come up.

This man's success is going to run you people crazy on this board. I love it.

Aaron will be around for a long time. There will be some additional announcement coming very soon.

I love it!

 
At 10/10/2008 1:19 AM , Blogger manetamer said...

Personally, I have zero interest in this type of program. But I'm sure it'll find its audience.

 
At 10/10/2008 7:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

They had a similar show with Jamie Oliver years ago. I enjoyed it. However, Jamie, as far as I know, was not out of prison.

 
At 10/10/2008 8:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 12:57 am....

Aaron McCargo makes disgustingly gloppy and over-seasoned food and he is like a Cabbage Patch Doll on crack. If he continues to be a "success", what does that say about the taste of his viewers? Trashy, clownish, unsophisticated, and have unrefined palates. Hurts to hear the truth about yourself, doesn't it?

 
At 10/10/2008 8:51 AM , Blogger Randy said...

Just mention "Big Daddy" and things quickly go off topic.

The Chef Jeff Project doesn't really interest me. The promos don't really make me want to watch it. I didn't care for the "I am your preacher, your this, your that" speech.

I prefer more light hearted fare on Food Network.

 
At 10/10/2008 9:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the announcement regarding Big Daddy will be that he suffers from dyslexia confounded by reading at a 5th grade level ,so his pet charity appointed for him will be a group along those lines.

As for the Chef Jeff Project, didn't Jamie Oliver introduce us to juvenile reprobates in many of his series ?

Oh well, so much for originality.

 
At 10/10/2008 10:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't like Big Daddy don't watch. If you don't watch the show you can't critize, so please stop watching so we don't have to listen to your dribble.

 
At 10/10/2008 10:10 AM , Blogger Val said...

I really found this guy annoying when he was on the episode of Dinner: Impossible. You were in prision and learned to cook and do it well while you were there and now you carry that to the streets and help young people not make the same mistakes you made. Good for you, but so what? Why does he get a show? How many people out there have reformed their lives after such an occurence? I'm not going to watch this show.

When I was a kid, MTV was my favorite channel because I got to watch music videos all day long. But, MTV when down the drain when they started adding all kinds of reality shows and strayed from music- what it was known for.

As an adult, I've grown to love FN for what it is- a COOKING network. Over the past year or so, I've really started to have that same migration away as I did with MTV. I think FN is stretching too much, and this show is the perfect example of straying from what you know works. Yes, there will be cooking going on during the show, but I think the idea of the show is ridiculous.

 
At 10/10/2008 10:47 AM , Blogger johnned said...

I'm looking foward to seeing something a bit different at night on FN...I'll at least give it a chance. Chef Jeff needs to have a good personality though in order for me to connect with this show

 
At 10/10/2008 11:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another attempt to bring in different types of viewers uh ?

I get it. Why not get a scum of the earth convicted drug peddlar who recently refined his skills for 10 yrs in prison and give em a cooking show ?. A real live crack bandit.

Something At Home with the Neely's couldn't do ? McCargo ?

 
At 10/10/2008 11:35 AM , Blogger greenbean said...

Jacob, I think you missed the mark with this commentary. I love your opinions and your blog, but this "incongruousness" argument just doesn't make sense. Do you expect Oprah to have a week full of shows beginning with a happy show on monday and slowly transistioning the mood so she can show a sad show on Friday? I think people are capable handling the transition from this show to watch DDD or whatever. These transistions happen on networks everyday, every hour.

And I think this show will be more uplifting than anything. These issues exist, we can't always escape them. And why not share with the food-loving FN viewers how someone is trying to make a positive difference. For all the mindless, Aunt Sandie stuff we all complain about, I'm glad to see a show that has a higher purpose.

 
At 10/10/2008 11:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, seriously, you need the whole network to be uniform? I can't imagine how boring that would be, and if you can't handle a serious show surrounded by dissimilar fare, then it has more to do with you.

Having said that, my interest in this show is low because I doubt they'll handle it well. Bob already said he cried, which sends up red flags that this will be a rah-rah, teary-eyed, sentimental mess. I hate when "uplifting" shows are pumped up beyond belief with cheesy "dramatic" music and "big moments," etc., which is what I fully expect FN to do here. I think it's a legit idea for a TV show, and obviously this is something Jeff has been doing for a long time. It's an admirable goal, and some of the negativity toward him or his endeavors are bizarre.

If they can keep it low-key -- which is near impossible on reality TV -- it might work. I also hope these are truly "at-risk" kids -- and not some little brats who shoplifted or told their parents to flip off. I would love to see them take kids out of truly bad environments and help them.

 
At 10/10/2008 1:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't think i will like it- its not something i would watch and it is sad and does remind me of sad oprah days

 
At 10/10/2008 1:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And when did Alton become SEXY? I guess he's sexy for all the guys and gals who like balding men who wears glasses. Okay, okay, I get it -- his brilliance makes him sexy, right?

Nahhhh.

 
At 10/10/2008 2:35 PM , Anonymous Turtle said...

I'll give it a shot for a couple of episodes.

And, if for no other reason, it will prevent FN from airing another f**king rerun of "Food Network Challenge" or "Iron Chef America." Seriously, people, give it a rest.

 
At 10/10/2008 2:48 PM , Anonymous Monica said...

I miss real cooking shows. Not how to make Hamburger Helper gourmet, not 'Chef' Boobula, not cooking-with-amatuerish-stereotypes-to-show-our-diversity shows, not how they make junkfood shows, but real, serious cooking shows. Seriously, Food Network is going down the MTV route. Before you know it, it will be all reality shows, contests and boobs but not real chefs.

 
At 10/10/2008 3:46 PM , Blogger FNCrazy said...

I DEF AGREE WITH 'VAL'... and maybe some of you others went on to say the same thing... I came to comment to say that I am not going to judge chef jeff before it begins and maybe it will be interesting, but is that what FN is supposed to be? I had the same thought with the MTV comparison... MUSIC television? yeah there really isn't much music there anymore... I just want the FOOD to stay in Food Network!

I just don't want to see LOTS of these shows taking over the network.

 
At 10/10/2008 4:50 PM , Blogger Becca said...

Well at least we know Chef Jeff won't come out with spiky yellow hair stuffing his face and shouting Yummo and Y'all. Did they even consider giving this guy a regular cooking show? Since he can probably cook, I'm guessing no.

 
At 10/10/2008 6:53 PM , Blogger Charles said...

They should have done a special one or two night airing first, then if it was successful go into a series. The concept is interesting but I just don't want to sit through sad stories and hear how everyone had a bad life and didn't have a fair shake in life from the start and yadda yadda yadda That would get tired very quickly. And that's my two cents.

 
At 10/10/2008 9:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jacob it is so sad that you have the blog. You are a sad person. You can't get anyone to read your blog unless you get them to put on their hooded sheets/keyboard.

Not only do you have problems with successful black people but you think you are a better class.

The good thing about this is that it eats you and your other hood-boys from the in-side-out.

Power to the people. PEACE

 
At 10/10/2008 10:04 PM , Blogger jacob said...

"Yeah, seriously, you need the whole network to be uniform? I can't imagine how boring that would be, and if you can't handle a serious show surrounded by dissimilar fare, then it has more to do with you."

It's not about wanting the network to be uniform; I'm one of the minority online who has championed Food Network's expansion into other formats besides instruction ... which, in all actuality, is showing to be what the majority of real viewers want to watch.

What concerns me is that I'm not sure Food Network can pull off a show like this. That doesn't have anything to do with Chef Jeff himself or the show's participants. It's just the network itself.

I won't even bother acknowledging the comment above this one, as nothing could be further from the truth.

 
At 10/11/2008 3:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We know they're there...the prisons are full of them, those who write best-sellers and now they have cooking shows on Food Network? Things are really getting sick in this country, along with our politics.

 
At 10/11/2008 5:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We know they're there...the prisons are full of them, those who write best-sellers and now they have cooking shows on Food Network? Things are really getting sick in this country, along with our politics."

Well at least they are not asking for a $700 billion bailout. "This is a bigger problem for this country". These are the guys who should be in jail.

Jeff is being part of the solution. FN is a business and their viewer ship has changed. Diversity is good. Too long this country has been run based on one group's opinion. Way to go FN.

 
At 10/11/2008 7:26 PM , Blogger Nikki said...

Every time someone black gets on the Food Network, you people go crazy. Get a grip.

 
At 10/11/2008 8:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

No it has nothing to do with someone being black on FN. I would rather watch Chef Jeff just have his own show and SHOW us how to cook good food (like he did on GMA). I feel bad that they give these great chefs/cooks these horrible show. FN WAKE-UP. Can't you figure this out.

 
At 10/12/2008 12:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just despise drug dealing crack smoking criminals who think everything is AoK 10 years after the fact they probably ruined several lives selling toxic drugs to young kids.

I say throw him back.

In Islam, drug dealers are executed.

 
At 10/12/2008 4:18 PM , Blogger Aunt LoLo said...

Is it just me, or did Jamie Oliver have a show along these same lines on BBC? I remember watching it last year...

At any rate, it wasn't a downer. The kids backgrounds were told, and that was that. After that, it was just watching to see who would continue to show up to work and who would get kicked out of the program - gotta love Tough Love!

 
At 10/12/2008 9:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

After almost 6 weeks of 30 second hypes, I watched a Chef Jeff "intro" program mid-week. Sort of interesting on its own (Terminal Island cook to EC at the Bellagio, and all that), but I don't think I'll be watching any more of it. Its a food/cooking channel for gawd sakes.

 
At 10/13/2008 10:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. I love Pat and Gina Neely. And they can talk unlike Aaron who needs to be edumacated. Duh.

 
At 10/13/2008 10:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaron and Paula. The dumbing down of America continues. And to think I used to blame it on RR.

 
At 10/13/2008 1:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone is lead to believe that Interstate BBQ that the Neely family owns is "outta this world to die for food", but I can tell you as a serious BBQ aficionado, it is just VERY AVERAGE.

The BBQ meat is just OK.The sides are pedestrian. BBQ spaghetti is horrid. People that rave over this are culinarily retarded.

 
At 10/13/2008 3:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say what you want about Aaron. Heis a winner. Making money...More money is coming. Announce is coming soon.

 
At 10/14/2008 2:01 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why you people are constantly bashing Guy Fieri - he is the sexiest man alive......

 
At 10/14/2008 9:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAT!!! Anonymous 2:01 are you kidding me. Some serious glasses needed.

 
At 10/16/2008 3:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

1.Chef Jeff paid his debt to society and now is trying to help these youngsters avoid the pitfalls he fell into. The show was cooking/catering oriented and showed him forming the group into a brigade to do a catering job for General hospital. Chef Jeff emphasized promptness, hard work, discipline and respecting self and others. This show was very positive.

2.a lot of you do not like blacks on FN, period and that is your problem as some of the greatest cooks in the US were black and invented many of the so-called signature dishes of the US. Fried chicken? black enslaved chefs on the plantation invented this as far back as 1709 in Virginia and Maryland. Potato chips? Invented by a black chef in Saratoga. The list goes on and on. Deal with it. We are not going anywhere.

3.It is amazing how many people get upset about a black person convicted of drug offenses but are fans of people like Cindy Mccain or Rush Limbaugh who used their wealth to avoid the 20 year conviction on federal drug charges that were coming their way for forging Vicodin scripts, etc. The numbers were so large for these two that it was at drug dealer level--enough drugs to distribute. Yet somehow, these people are a-ok but Chef Jeff isn't--tail about a racist double standard!

 
At 10/16/2008 3:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"At 3:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said."

Thank you. This is the problem with this board. You are0 so right.

 
At 10/19/2008 2:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wont be watching...stupid concept, i like next food network star as a reality show, but Suzy and whats his name ruin that one for me too..Mario Batali for President, Tony Bourdain for VP.

 
At 10/20/2008 12:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chef Jeff is Ghetto. Nobody wants to see that on the NF channel.....

 
At 10/20/2008 1:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This show sucks I don't care to watch crack heads try to hide behind a cooking show. Why don't you start a show about serial killers who can cook slop. My point is this is boring to those of us who watch this channel relgiously.Stop cramming ethnic losers down are throughts. Bring back Mario or Emeril Or Sarah or anybody else you have let slip away, we don't care about these losers.I'm about to tune you out for good.

 
At 10/20/2008 9:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"stop cramming ethnic losers down are throughts."

You are the only loser. "Ethnic?" There are several white kids. You can't aford the food that Emeril and Mario cook.

Go buy your own station.

Jeff is helping. You are part of the problem.

 
At 10/20/2008 3:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. And after 7pm the station sucks now.

 
At 10/20/2008 8:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't anyone criticize a black FN star without people saying they're racist? Jeez.

I watched the show twice, I like it. It's kind of like "Hell's Kitchen" only there's less swearing and no one has to get kicked off on each episode. I think it's interesting to watch kids who don't really know how to cook (or do anything for that matter) trying to learn and step up to the plate. I'm a college professor and I see a lot of similarities between these kids and my students -- they don't know anything, some of them think they know a lot and can't let go of the 'hood, and others seem to genuinely appreciate the opportunity they've been given and want to work hard.

I loved the two women on the last episode who were late (again) and blamed the bus and were complaining about how hard it was to get there on time. Kids!

In any case, I'd rather watch this show than stupid "watch me make a vinagrette" for the millionth time. And it sure beats Dancing With the Stars.

TV generally sucks.

Barbara

 
At 10/23/2008 12:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think half of you all are some racist you know whats.... If you get off the farm every now and then you might have something more intresting to do than spew hatred about people who's live might be different from yours.
Get a friggin life, idiots......

 
At 10/27/2008 2:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The show is staged, and so far it looks fake; this guy cannot speak, and neither can the other people.

The food looks bad and there is no way he is doing high level catering.

 
At 11/03/2008 4:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The food looked lovely--when was the last time you have seen chilled giant strawberries injected with Hypnotique liquer and seved as lollipops? This was one of his desserts last week and that is high level cocktail party food. You people do not like Chef Jeff because he is black, period. Its funny how it is ok for white people to come out of jail and start over(ala Martha Stewart) or to even avoid their deserved sentences(ala Cindy Mccain or Rush Limbaugh drug charges) but if a black person tries for a second chance, they are still scum of the earth. Please your racism and hypocrisy is showing!

 
At 11/03/2008 9:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice idea but wrong network. The program is just another "cry-fest" with staged drama. Please, Please, Please go away and never come back!

 
At 11/09/2008 5:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the Chef Jeff Project was a good concept. I watched the first episode, during which the problems these young people had were identified. Okay, concept still looked like it would work. But after continuing to watch the show, and seeing how many breaks Chef Jeff gave to Shante, I no longer find "reality" in the show. The woman has been late so many times. And every time, although he scolds her, Chef Jeff cuts her slack and gives yet ANOTHER chance. Not right. Not fair. Not gonna help her make it in the real world. Most employers, especially a restaurant, would have terminated her "for cause." Perhaps it wasn't meant to be a reality show. If that's the case, then I think each show should begin with a "notice to viewers" that says, "This show is NOT what the real world is like."

 
At 11/09/2008 10:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. He's favoring Shante when she's the one person that deserves to be kicked off. Ghetto doesn't cut it in the workplace.

 
At 11/15/2008 6:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the premise of this show initially but at this point I am left with a sour taste in my mouth. What is the point of teaching these kids how to make it in the real world if you are only going to forgive them of all transgressions? Shante is a manipulative, self-serving excuse for a women. You can see she is a chameleon as well and will change at moments notice to suit her environment. However she cannot hide who she really is. Adam seems to have mental issues among many others. I have definitely seen some progress in him, but ultimately there is no way he will make it through culinary school, not one chance in Hell. Alonzo needs some self-confidence, he is more then repairable. Brett, Kathy & Maria should do fine unless they fall back on their bad habits which is always a possibility.

 
At 11/15/2008 9:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching this show right now, three chefs claim that theyve never made sushi. one chef said she found caviar gross. another was grossed out by raw fish. and none of them have ever shucked oysters. Where do they get these clowns from? I think they go to the hood and pickup a bunch of kids working in the back of mcdees putting together burgers because not only have i never attended cooking school, ive done all these tasks. Maybe i should be on the chef jeff show

ridiculous
this guy cant even slice bread

 
At 4/26/2009 10:54 PM , Blogger amosoner said...

What trash. Boooo. I am so disapointed in the food network for airing such crap. Wish I could have the last hour of my life back.

 
At 4/26/2009 11:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

this show sucks bad

 

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