Summer's best reality cook-offs

Summer's best reality cook-offs

Hell's Kitchen, Around the World in 80 Plates, Masterchef and Next Food Network Star

I’m completely hooked on cooking competition reality TV shows. I can usually find a few decent shows to watch throughout the year, but as it is every year, summertime is the behemoth for a bunch of my favorite reality genre to be on TV at the same time. This summer, there are four—and only two involve Gordon Ramsay. Here are the reality cooking competition shows to watch others beat the gastronomic heat:

Around the World in 80 Plates. A new addition from Bravo, the network that gave us the model cooking show, Top Chef. This time, contestants have to travel all over the world (they’ve been to England, France, Morocco and Italy so far) cooking local specialties. Locals then have to pick the team that interpreted their homeland’s famous dishes best. The most intriguing part of this show—also the part that’s likely to piss fans of Top Chef off—is that the contestants of the losing team choose which team member to send home. That pretty much guarantees that the best chef in the bunch will not win this thing.

Hell’s Kitchen. The tenth season of Gordon Ramsay’s international hit pits a team of ladies against a team of gentleman (let’s get with the gender times, Ramsay!) to out-cook each other. The appeal of the show is Ramsay’s feisty tongue, which yells expletives at chefs who still can’t cook a bloody scallop. It’s the same each season—each episode, really—but people are obviously watching.

Masterchef. Fox expects us to make a complete about-face for the Ramsay-headed show, Masterchef. On this show, the lobotomized Ramsay says sweet things about blind ladies and lets war veterans cook because he likes their stories. Eventually one home cook—that means a person without formal culinary training and a conventional day job—will win $150,000 and a cook book deal. It’s amazing what these people can do in their everyday kitchens.

Next Food Network Star. The prize on Next Food Network Star is definitely the best of any food show—probably any reality TV show generally: the winner gets his or her own cooking show. That means, of course, that the contestants on this show have to be doubly talented, as chefs and as TV presenters. Competing this season is a tubby Hawaiian, a retro-hip blonde lady, an older Southern belle and a creepy, red-lipped molecular gastronomist—it’s fascinating to wonder about why these people want to be celebrities.

What are your favorite cooking TV shows?