Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I'm Watching: Pressure Cook


My Hulu subscription just dumped three more half hour episodes of Pressure Cook onto my queue, so now is as good a time as any to let you know why this reality cooking program is a winner.

The premise is a hybrid of Survivor Man and a standard cooking show. Italian American chef Ralph Pagano is dropped off in a foreign country, supposedly with no money and no idea as to where in the world he is. He then has three days to earn the cost of a plane ticket home, or else he has to accept some gross-out punishment (usually, eat a disgusting local delicacy).

Ralph is an entertaining character, even if you do get the idea that he's hamming it up for the sake of the camera sometimes. He is very pushy in his attempts to land culinary-related jobs, and pulls no punches when criticizing the people who hire him, all of which is great fun to watch.

I like that he was chosen for his cooking skills and personality, rather than his good looks (sorry, Ralph!).

Sometimes he performs backbreaking labor, as when he harvested agave plants that seemed to be bigger than he is. Other times, he's acting purely as a chef in a fine dining situation. His only rule seems to be that he's going to go through at least three jobs, which keeps the program moving right along.

In the end, he sometimes risks all his money on some make-or-break proposition, such as entering a barbecue competition, or even betting on black in a casino.

I like this show because it doesn't try to make high drama out of fake situations. Ralph may play up his personality for the camera, but he doesn't waste time trying to make us feel like he's going to be stranded and starving in some backwater area. The punishments are mild, and we know that what's really at stake is Ralph's pride.

The show also gives us a nice window into other cultures. We often see foreign dishes prepared on cooking shows, but this structure sends us behind the scenes of a restaurant, so we get a much better (and more interesting) idea of where our food comes from. So it's not only entertaining, but also educational.

You're not going to learn how to cook by watching this show, but it may give you some culinary ideas to research on your own.


The Hulu Man

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