The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck [review, video]
The Oxygen Network took its first foray into food programming last night, with the premiere of Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck. The show is a slice-of-life take on Beck and the various hijinx that go down with her staff of 60 at Dallas hotel-restaurant Central 214. (If this sounds a little familiar, that's because the show comes from the production company Authentic Entertainment, the force behind Flipping Out and Ace of Cakes.)
The hook here is Beck: an oversized lady with an oversized personality and a personal quest for "Total World Culinary Domination." Her customers can't help but be charmed when she works the room, and the staff seems almost religiously devoted to her. Beck's gimmick is making "naughty" food. That's not a sex thing, it's an indulgence thing: she explains, "My sexy new American cuisine is made with beer and bacon and cream and cheese and lots of heart, and when you eat my food, you're not being bad, you're just being naughty." The problem is that on her show, the food almost seems besides the point.
The premiere episode centered around a nerve-wracking upcoming review by the Dallas Morning News. Upset at the two-star review (out of five), Beck and her coworkers mop up beer spilled on a table using a printout of the review, saying of their reviewer, "Thank God her words were worth something." Never addressed are the real reasons for the bad review: the "almost raw" pork chop, the careless service, the uninspired desserts. The solution isn't to buck up and fix the problems — it's agreed that Beck needs to be in the dining room more because "the reviewer didn't get the naughty." In her universe, the "naughty" should blind you from the food's shortcomings. "In order for you to be naughty, you have to touch every table that comes into that restaurant," her chef friend advises.
This focus on "the naughty" rather than, well, the edible speaks to the fact that Beck is convinced that being on tv is her destiny, her birthright. In an interview unrelated to her review, she told the Morning News that "In my world, I'd be on TV for the rest of my life. That's my goal, that's my plan." Almost disturbingly self-aware and highly self-promotional, in episode one Beck already had a poster of herself on the wall of her office and wears a pink t-shirt with her name emblazoned on it.
Is this one cooking show too many? Depends if you're exhausted of the competition format of Top Chef and the travelogue format of No Reservations. Returning to the roots of food reality (Rocco DiSpirito's The Restaurant), it's hard to believe, but aside from the one-off episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, Naughty Kitchen is actually the only reality show set inside a real, functioning restaurant. This is probably the first of many to come. And depending on your opinion of her, Blythe Beck has set the bar incredibly high or devastatingly low.
Video: Naughty Kitchen Excerpt
Video: Naughty Kitchen Promo
Video: Blythe on Culinary Domination