Food chat suc­cess

Abc’s thechew is bit­ing into its 500th episode.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By FRA­ZIER MOORE

WHEN ABC’s The Chew pre­miered in Septem­ber 2011, it begged the ques­tion: Was it bit­ing off more than a show like this could chew?

Here was a rol­lick­ing week­day feast de­voted to “ev­ery­thing food” – not just cook­ing but home en­ter­tain­ing, din­ing out, healthy di­ets and a sat­is­fy­ing culi­nary life­style over­all. And it came with a menu of five – count ’em, FIVE! – co-hosts. Too many cooks in that kitchen?

Well, maybe not. On Tues­day in its reg­u­lar 1pm EST time slot, The Chew marks its 500th edi­tion with a spe­cial hour as its co-hosts savour their chat-and-chew suc­cess.

“The Chew was never about food, it was about th­ese five peo­ple,” says ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Gor­don El­liott be­fore a re­cent tap­ing at the show’s Man­hat­tan stu­dio.

Roughly 59 min­utes later (to keep the en­ergy flow­ing, each show is taped in front of a stu­dio au­di­ence from start to fin­ish, with no re­takes or down time slow­ing the pace), the hosts – Mario Batali, Michael Sy­mon, Carla Hall, Clin­ton Kelly and Daphne Oz – re­lo­cate to a nearby con­fer­ence room, with a reporter in tow:

“What makes the show work,” says Sy­mon (a star of Food Net­work’s Iron Chef Amer­ica and owner of six restau­rants), “is that it lit­er­ally feels like all of us are hang­ing out, cook­ing some food and telling sto­ries. We’re bust­ing each other’s chops, but we all know we’ve got each other’s back.”

“And by now, it hap­pens nat­u­rally,” adds Batali (the co-owner of 17 restau­rants na­tion­ally as well as a Food Net­work star and best­selling au­thor). “We all know when it’s each per­son’s turn to talk, and we know we’ll all get our turn.”

“We al­ways tell each other be­fore the show starts, ‘ Party in the kitchen’,” says Kelly (who was also a host of TLC’s re­cently con­cluded What Not to Wear). “That’s what we want: for peo­ple to come into our kitchen and have a good time.”

“We have five dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, ver­sus a sin­gle-host show,” notes Hall (a mem­o­rable past com­peti­tor on Bravo’s Top Chef and the owner of an ar­ti­san cookie com­pany).

“That means we have five dif­fer­ent ways of do­ing things. So we are say­ing to the viewer, ‘If YOU have a sixth way, that’s OK, too.’ We em­power the view­ers to have their own per­spec­tives.”

“The en­sem­ble setup gives us all an op­por­tu­nity to do some learn­ing on TV, as well as some teach­ing,” says Batali.

Hall adores a cer­tain trick for peel­ing lemons she learned on the air from Sy­mon. And Kelly con­fides, “I didn’t like quinoa un­til Daphne (the Chew res­i­dent health-and-well­ness guru) kept shov­ing it down my throat. I ac­tu­ally like quinoa now.”

Each hour has a theme (not just broad ideas like how to fix the per­fect tur­key but also con­cep­tual side dishes like “Pic­nic Es­sen­tials” or “Left­over Makeover”) that the show’s producers cook up.

Sy­mon: “They give us themes, and then we give them our recipes.”

Batali: “Along with our thoughts on each seg­ment.”

Hall: “We make each idea work, based on our ex­pe­ri­ences.”

“But I’ve said no to a seg­ment,” Kelly points out. “It just wasn’t in my wheel­house, and I didn’t want to pre­tend to do some­thing that I wouldn’t ac­tu­ally be do­ing at home.” “Man­scap­ing?” cracks Batali. When The Chew was first an­nounced, naysay­ers warned its hosts they were mak­ing a mis­take.

“A bunch of my friends were say­ing, ‘ This is ca­reer sui­cide’,” Batali re­calls with a laugh, “and I was like, ‘I think I could prob­a­bly still make it as a cook.’ Now we know un­mis­tak­ably, in­du­bitably, that we have the best jobs in food pro­gram­ming.” “A hun­dred per cent!” Hall chimes in. “With­out a doubt,” says Kelly. Plus they each have four new pals: “Away from the show, we re­ally do hang out. You can look at our phones and see how much we text and e-mail each other.”

While the pace of The Chew has eased a bit from its hy­per­ac­tive early days, each hour has plenty go­ing on.

But as Batali has learned, “you can say a lot with­out too many words or hav­ing to rush if you’re edit­ing in your mind: What ex­actly is my mes­sage here?”

“My mes­sage,” says Hall, “is that home cook­ing is the end-all and be-all, and it doesn’t re­quire chef’s skills or chef’s in­gre­di­ents. Once you’re com­fort­able with a ba­sic dish and a ba­sic tech­nique, the po­ten­tial vari­a­tions are huge.”

“What’s the con­nec­tion be­tween What Not To Wear and The Chew?” poses Kelly. “There’s a very strong com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor: to be the best ver­sion of you, whether it’s with the clothes you put on your body or the food you’re putting in your body. To be con­scious in ev­ery as­pect of your life.”

“I’m just say­ing, `This is sim­ple to make and your guests will love eat­ing it,”’ sums up Batali. “I think that’s what we’re all sell­ing on The Chew all the time: ‘Yes, you can’ and ‘ Why don’t you?’” – AP

Still go­ing strong: Hosts of thechew, (from left) clin­ton Kelly, michael Sy­mon, carla Hall, daphne Oz and mario batali on the set in New york. When abc’s thechew pre­miered in Septem­ber 2011, it begged the ques­tion: Was it bit­ing off more than it could chew? maybe not.

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