Brits vs. Americans in ‘Chef Race’ across America

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 28, 2012 


Team USA, left, team UK, right, and hosts Claire and Richard pause on the Santa Monica Pier before the start of 'Chef Race'


According to the first two episodes of “Chef Race,” the United States is a nation of grillers. Please pass the bison burgers.

A new reality show made for BBC America, it pits 16 chefs split into two teams, in a race across the United States. Eight chefs are from the United Kingdom and the other eight are Americans.

“It’s got emotions of ‘The Apprentice,’ ‘Master Chief,’ (all) sort of rolled into one, but, of course, it’s got a lot more rugged,” says executive producer Jamie Oliver, known for his “Food Revolution” on ABC and other cooking shows. “There’re lots of different kinds of chef. … You got people that work in street food, pop-up (stands), and people that are artisans. All competing, with literally no money, to get across the States.”

The culture clashes are jarring at times.

Not the cultural menu choices, but the mindsets of the two teams. By the end of the second episode, several chefs on each side stand out, not for their cooking, but their unpleasant personalities.

“It’s not just about England vs. America which is obviously a good premise, it’s also the individual battles,” Oliver says. “There’s only one winner so it’s really everyone for themselves, but, at the same time, they have to be team players.”

Shot in two months over the summer of 2012, “Chef Race” will ultimately be shown around the world. The goal is $100,000 for one single winner. The contestants include very experienced, fairly new, older and youth.

The show’s producer, Fresh One Productions, includes veterans from other reality shows including “The Amazing Race,” “Undercover Boss.” The host, Claire Robinson, hails from Florida while the slightly portly judge is English, Richard Corrigan, a Michelin-starred restaurateur.

“America is so diverse,” says Oliver. “The journey across, setting off in Los Angeles (actually Santa Monica), ending up in New York, a massive hike — 4,000 miles across 10 shows.”

“For most of these people, this will make or break their future careers, sort of turbo-charge their advancement. $100 grand is enough to get a loan from a bank to do something bigger; $100 grand is enough to have a kick-ass pop-up or street food, or hole-in-the-wall style restaurant, set up a lovely little deli or a tiny pizzeria. A $100 grand is a life-changing amount of cash.”

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