Last night BRAVO started the telecasts of a new series, Chef Academy with French Chef Jean Christophe Novelli, rated the "World's Sexiest Chef" by the New York Times. Novelli Academy Cookery School in the UK has placed in the "Top 25 Cookery Schools in the World" and he's opening one in Venice, California with the assistance of his executive chef and right hand man, Steve Kitchen. For additional support during his extended stay in the U.S., Chef Novelli brings along his pregnant fiancée Michelle and hires a temporary assistant Joel. Joel finds and stocks with beautiful kitchen equipment (no doubt donated by companies wanting some product placement) a kitchen space which has living quarters for Novelli, his fiancee and maybe Kitchen upstairs.
9 students are chosen to be the first students in Chef Novelli's U.S. culinary education experiment, hand picked by himself and Mr. Kitchen after performing the culinary task of cooking an egg, deceptively simple. Some talented potential students who did not have the requisisite passion/love for cooking and desire to learn were eliminated. The students chosen represent an array of backgrounds from newly trained chefs to anxious homemakers hoping to learn some new culinary tricks. Students will be assessed weekly via a variety of tests. However, failing more than 3 tests is grounds for dismissal from his Academy.
Novelli makes a caramel filagree cage to demonstrate what is possible with simple ingredients.
The first test, not under the grading system which will start with the next episode, was to cook their signature dish in one hour with ingredients they bring in. Here is what they created:
Zoe, culinary school graduate - lobster roll and chips; Novelli says fabulous, lobster cooked perfectly and crisps great
Kup, Navy submarine cook - chicken marsala w/ stuffed portobello mushrooms; Novelli says at the end that he failed beacuse it had no sauce and was too dry
Emmanuel, graphic artist(and former porn star in France) - quiche and yoghurt parfait; he fails to cook the quiche enough due to time; Novelli says parfait is excellent; a contestant observed that Emmanuel was very inefficient
Kyle, sous chef and the only experience chef in the group - French toast, foie gras and eggs; Novelli says very well-prepared but without passion
Carissa, former events planner now engaged - butternut squash risotto; she had a hair from her head that was in the dish, so Novelli declined to taste it
Tracie, TV commercials producer - chipotle macaroni and cheese; Novelli says very good
Sarah, wedding caterer - grilled sea bass, Agentinian sauce and salad; Novelli rates this as one of the best
Leo, Italian culinaray school graduate - rice with ginger; Novelli said at the end that the rice is missing flavors and the dish is missing seasoning
Suzanne, housewife - pancakes with strawberry and pineapple fruit compotes; this is the winner
Novelli closes the first day with the message that you have to be careful to not make serious mistakes that will get you 4 fails and eliminated. I think this series has no punch unless eliminations actually happen. Some of the students are more likely to have that occur than others.
Novelli proclaims his goal of uupgrading his students from cooks into chefs. I like this series and will watch more of it. It is much more approachable than Top Chef or Hell's Kitchen. Top Chef is about perfecting good chefs. Hell's Kitchen is about teaching relatively inexpereinced chefs how a top end kitchen should be managed. Chef Academy will, I expect, teach me some things I can use in my kitchen.