In my recent Zester Daily piece, Kale Wars? Dumpster Divers? Must See Food TV! I came up with three Food Network pitches for more nourishing television. So if you haven’t yet savored every scintillating word, please hop over there, savor, scintillate and come back for the out-takes that were a little too out-there for a respectable food site.
If you liked my "Food Activist Star," "Dumpster Divers" and "Kale Wars" concepts for more filling, yet thrilling television, I hope you'll enjoy this wacky, tacky twosome, too. Here goes:
Skid Row Kitchen
Nice guy Tyler Florence mentors six homeless people from LA’s Skid Row as they vie for a culinary school scholarship. We see them briefly before they are cleaned up and given housing.
Each week, the “culinarians” are taught a basic cooking skill, ending in the preparation of a communal dish that will be served at a homeless shelter. The kitchen scenes will be intercut with scenes of them in their communal housing environment. They are judged on both their kitchen performance and interaction with fellow culinarians. There are two judges—a chef and a mental health expert who will provide as-needed counseling, plus onscreen commentary. Each week, the culinarian who is eliminated will be assigned a social worker who will help find that person housing and a job.
The final two must cook a meal for the judges. The winner gets free housing for a year and a scholarship to attend culinary school.
Knife-wielding, unpredictable street people playing with fire? That's hot!
The audience will have a deeper understanding of the homeless as they attempt to re-enter society and turn their lives around.
This adaptation of the "Iron Chef" franchise pairs two celebrity chefs each week in a different ebola-free African country who are assigned a local ingredient for a timed cook-off.
Each week, we see the chefs being chaperoned through the local market, interacting with the people. Cut to the chefs in the kitchen studio, each with two local assistants. They have one hour to cook and improvise a multi-course meal around one ingredient that must be in all the dishes. Alton Brown gives the blow-by-blow account, and we also hear commentary on the ingredients’ history, culinary traditions and nutritional information by agronomists, farmers and a nutritionist. The two judges are Ethiopian-born, New York celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and one local chef.
Sample episodes and promo dialogue:
Paula Deen and Sandra Lee in Ethiopia; Ingredient: bambara beans
Paula: "You’re gonna love these bambara beans, y’all!"
Sandra: "Dried bambara beans are inexpensive and make festive tree ornaments."
Martha Stewart and Ina Garten in Angola; Ingredient: egusi
Martha: "Egusi seeds. They’re a good thing."
Ina: "Egusi soup. How easy is that?"
Rachael Ray and Giada De Laurentiis in Botswana; Ingredient: marama
Rachael: "30-minute marama in a little EVOO? Yummo!"
Giada: "This easy marama dish will be perfect for Jade's lunchbox. And Todd's gonna love it, too!"
Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri in Guyana; Ingredient: lablab
Bobby: "Lablab. I can't wait to get grillin'."
Guy: "Hey, it’s Guy in Guyana. I'm gonna make a fierce lablab chili."
The winners from the previous shows return and are assigned to two final teams. The winning team donates the prize money to an African food nonprofit of choice.
Fish-out-of-water celebrity chefs. Foreign ingredients. Paula Deen in Africa. It’s a Neilsen bonanza!
It will enlighten viewers about different farming practices and cuisines of the world, promote multiculturalism and help eradicate xenophobia.
These out-takes may be a little out-there, but trust me. They're completely doable.
Food Network execs: Have your people call my people. My personal assistant will pencil you in.