Editor’s Note: Welcome to our new column, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, plus provide a Top 5 list of what’s coming up this week that you should not miss.
Chefs are the worst.
Anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry can attest that most chefs are egomaniacal, rude, obsessive, and just unpleasant to work with. They’re usually my-way-or-the-highway types that you’ll find in any type of restaurant, from The French Laundry in Napa Valley to the Denny’s a mile from your house.
And no, this take isn’t based on the hit FX series The Bear or the 3,458 reality cooking shows (rough estimate) on TV right now. I’m speaking from first hand experience as someone who worked in a second tier restaurant (slightly better than a Chili’s) for two years in Denver. My wife, who worked as a hostess and waitress for years in a high-end restaurant in Atlanta, and friends and family members who’ve also worked in food service, hold this opinion as well. So every time the wife and I watch a chef-centric show we know exactly what type of narcissist is on our TV screens. Chefs are the type of people you love to hate.
As if to validate this opinion, the Food Network recently premiered a fascinating new series called, Me or the Menu. The relationship docu-series follows four couples from across the country all in different stages of opening their first restaurant. The program makes it clear this is no easy task. Just check out these excerpts from a press release about the show.
Me or the Menu finds four couples trying to beat the odds of ending up in divorce court, while also navigating the unique challenges of the cutthroat restaurant industry…shines a spotlight on some of the reasons that approximately 60 percent of restaurants fail and nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.
Yikes! You know there’s a good chance for high drama when the word “divorce” is prominently used in the first paragraph of a press release.
Starting your own business is hard. Me or the Menu makes it feel almost impossible. Not because the task itself is so difficult but because chefs are so damn stubborn. A look at the relationship dynamics between the four couples on the show perfectly demonstrates this.
Randi and Jeanette (Brooklyn, NY)
If you look up the phrase “pretentious d-bag” at Urban Dictionary you’ll see a picture of Randi. His pretentious d-baggery starts with spelling his name with an “i” and continues with the name of his restaurant (Leland Eating and Drinking House), his love of oversized hats, the speakeasy concept called Whispers (insert eye roll here) that only seats around 4 people, and the reliance on his fiancee Jeanette as both an ATM and free labor. Randi also makes all sorts of promises he has no intention of keeping, making him the worst.
Nicole and Alan (Houston, TX)
Nicole is a self-taught cook opening a vegan restaurant called Greenio’s. Despite having no industry experience she ignores the sound advice of the professional chef she hires for a pop-up to test her concept for an investor, then walks out before it begins and takes off in her boyfriend Alan’s car, leaving him behind. Alan was ready to propose but is now having doubts and deservedly so. Nicole has Greenio’s aprons, t-shirts, and chef coats yet isn’t even close to opening a restaurant. She has the cart but not the horse and says the word “Greenio’s” about 500 times an episode.
Kathleen and Nate (Lombard, IL)
Kathleen is a food truck owner moving her Italian cuisine into a brick and mortar building. She’s so myopic that her kids, her fiancé Nate, and a developer she tried and failed to sweet talk into what would have been an absurd real estate deal all get walked over. She also waited eight months to tell her kids she was engaged to Nate, who gets the brunt of Kathleen’s ire, although some of it is deserved. Nate isn’t that bright, a bit lazy, and did cheat on her at the start of their relationship. That said, Kathleen is punitive, treating her fiancé like a child, talking down to him, and frequently reminding Nate of his betrayal.
James and Jessica (Chicago, IL)
James is a chef on the rise but is pushing his wife Jessica to the brink. She works two full time jobs to fund her husband’s dream while he doesn’t contribute financially. James and Jessica are the most relatable of the four couples and, in my opinion, the only ones likely to save their relationship.
Despite focusing on individuals who are clearly in over their heads and will sometimes make you shout “Just dump him/her already!” at your TV, all of these relationships are riveting. A reality show that’s a blend of the relationship and foodie genres of reality programming, Me or the Menu is must-see TV.
New episodes of Me or the Menu air Thursdays on Food Network and Discovery+. Previously aired episodes are also available on Discovery+.
5 Reality Shows to Watch This Week
1. Below Deck Mediterranean (Bravo, August 1)
Why you should watch it: While the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Gary and Daisy on Below Deck Sailing Yacht is playful and fun, the romance between chef Dave and chief stew Natasha on Med is more like the Titanic. In last week’s episode, Dave was crying in bed after feeling neglected by Natasha. It was so deviously enjoyable I felt like Eric Cartman licking away Scott Tenorman’s tears. I’m a terrible person.
2. Running Wild With Bear Grylls (NatGeo, August 1)
Why you should watch it: In last week’s premiere episode Bear filtered Natalie Portman’s water through his underwear while cavorting around the deserts of southern Utah. Imagine what he’ll put poor Simu Lui through as they deal with sub-zero weather in the Canadian Rockies.
3. Snake in the Grass (USA, August 1)
Why you should watch it: Check out the description of this new series hosted by Bobby Bones: “Each episode of this social experiment will feature four players who are dropped into the wild for 36 hours with a chance to win $100,000. In order to win, the four must figure out which one of them is ‘the Snake’ – a saboteur who is secretly undermining the group every step of the way. Three Survivor alums and a Naked and Afraid survivalist must dive deep to uncover the Snake.” You had me at “three Survivor alums.”
4. Celebrity Beef (E!, August 2)
Why you should watch it: Full disclosure: I don’t like Joel McHale. I find him smarmy and a bit of a d-bag. He’d get along great with chef Randi from Leland Drinking and Eating House. That said, I always enjoy a cooking competition with celebrities because usually they’re horrible and make me feel better about my own pathetic culinary skills. Up first are Rachael Harris and Cheryl Hines.
5. Me or the Menu (Food Network, August 4)
Why you should watch it: Kathleen is behind schedule (and will probably blame Nate), Jeanette and Randi are throwing a party for the newly completed Whispers (worst name ever), Alan takes command of the Greenios pop-up in a last-ditch effort to impress the investor (not likely), and James and Jessica host an influencer dinner to boost their social media presence and gain more followers. Good luck to you all.
Terry Terrones is a Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Association member, licensed drone pilot, and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not applying for Survivor, you can find him hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.
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