Arts & Culture

Worst Cooks In America Re-Cap: Food Network, Good For The Jews?

Food Network is sort of like the shtetl of television. Read More

By / January 3, 2011

Oh to love those reality and competition programs that serve one simple purpose: making me and the rest of America feel fantastic about ourselves. Enter the culinary version of The Jersey Shore, Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. Season Two began last night and so, I sat back with take-out sushi to watch acclaimed chefs and hosts Anne Burrell and Robert Irvine scout the country the 16 worst American chefs. I secretly have an addiction to Food Network programming so indulge me as I sound like the dramatically flared voice of their thrilling commercials. (Cue the drama packed instrumentals…) The worst cook contestants will be challenged each week to learn a bevy of restaurant worthy culinary skills and will compete to cook a three course meal for industry critics who believe they are gathering for a meal cooked by Chefs Burrell and Irvine. The icing on the best of the worst cakes ever baked? The winner will go home with a lofty $25,000 prize post taxes. The idiom which weighs the pros and cons of teaching a man to fish versus simply giving him one is currently all too appropriate.

Rachel Coleman a.k.a. Pop Jew

We were proud Jewcy mamas when our tribe’s very own Pop Jew Rachel Coleman won last season’s title of Best of the Worst Cooks in America. Since her epic victory she has been cooking up homemade pasta, pork milanese and gourmet mac n’ cheese in her Brooklyn home kitchen and has spent a small portion of her winnings on her Pop Jew Bus Tour. I didn’t think Food Network could be any better for the Jews after they dubbed Rachel with a title her Jewish mother could shep some serious nachas from – until I dug into Worst Cooks In America‘s Season Two premiere.

Joshie Berger

Just when I was finishing my kamikaze roll with wasabi roe, I met Joshie Berger via my thirteen inch television screen as he presented charred cholent to Chefs Irvine and Burrell in order to prove he truly was one of the country’s worst cooks. Nevermind that said dish is only truly appreciated by a small percentage of Ashkenazi Jews across the world – even a Jewish dog would not have chowed down on Joshie’s burnt bits of kishke. Having grown up an Orthodox Hassidic Jew, Joshie’s explanation for such a foodtastrophe was “well…if you cook it for a while it’s inevitably going to get burned!” – the dumbfounded looks on both chefs faces were sharp cues that they had zero clue that most Jewish mothers cook this soul food low and slow for almost a full 24 hours. Thus, a lightbulb sparked in my reality television melted, typically fashion-oriented Jewish mind-  JOSHIE WATCH.

Here’s what we know about Joshie so far: despite his Orthodox Hassidic upbringing, Joshie has chosen to compete in WCIA where contestants learn to make dishes that any Jew, especially his relatives, would consider treyf. Kashrut aside, Joshie screamed his Jewy Jewness loud and proud when he chose to make shakshooka for his first challenge where the Chefs assessed his (lack of ) skills. After spilling three quarters of the traditional Israeli breakfast dish on his station in an attempt to present the baked eggs cooked in stewed tomatoes with yolks facing up, Chef Irvine wasted no time dumping him on Chef Anne Burrell who, over the next few weeks, will attempt to teach him her master skills. While Season One winner Rachel Coleman (also a pupil of Chef Anne) told Jewcy she’d always considered going kosher to prove her devotion to her jewdentity, she won her season with a pork entree. Hopefully we’ll watch Joshie throw his kosher to the wind and learn to cook anything, even if it’s preparation lacks rabbinical supervision.