New York Daily News

TV’S ‘Chef Wanted’ grills job seekers


It’s not just about the cooking.

That’s what celebrity chef Anne Burrell says about her new Food Network reality show and its search for the next great executive chefs.

“You need people and communicat­ion skills, business sense, definitely passion and love,” Burrell says, “and a little masochism.”

The masochism might be the most critical trait for the contestant­s in “Chef Wanted,” which debuts Thursday at 10 p.m.

Think of it as a cross between “The Apprentice” and “Top Chef.” After a series of cooking challenges — aka “the toughest job interview of their lives” — the winner of each episode takes over the kitchen of a restaurant seeking reinventio­n.

Burrell essentiall­y functions as a one-woman human resources department. “I went through a lot of résumés,” she says with a laugh. After hunting down four suitable candidates, she takes her wanna-bes through a few eliminatio­n rounds to test their creative mettle.

In the first episode at Mucho Ultima in Southern California, for example, Burrell’s charges have to recreate the taco. Contestant­s are tested on the minutiae of Mexican cuisine in a room stocked with 30 different chiles. At a fancy nouvelle French place on the Jersey Shore called Fromagerie, chefs must turn a plain chicken into the restaurant’s next big hit in less than an afternoon.

And at Old Homestead Steakhouse on Eighth Ave. in Manhattan, aspiring masters of meat create a custom cut for the 144-year-old steakhouse and reinvent a few of the landmark spot’s long-standing sides.

Burrell, an “Iron Chef America” pro, doesn’t pity those who come on the show.

“They should be able to do this stuff,” she says. “They’re experience­d chefs."

It’s always been a tough job. “It’s nights. It’s weekends. It’s hot. It’s standing up,” she says.

Not to mention that in the smartphone era, everyone’s a critic. “What if somebody came to your job on your first day,” she says, “and wrote about it and put it all over the Internet?”

Which is kind of what happens each week on “Chef Wanted.” By the end of each episode, two finalists must run an entire restaurant for a night, cooking not just for cameras or prospectiv­e bosses but a packed house.

For Manhattan’s Old Homestead, it was a decidedly new way to run a job search. But Marc Sherry, whose family has run the legendary steakhouse since 1937, said he’s pleased with the results. They include an update for creamed spinach, the appearance of slab beef bacon and a new steak, Sherry boasts, with a “brontosaur­us-size bone.”

Those won’t appear on the menu until the show airs July 19. But beforehand, you might be able to figure out who created them with a peek into the kitchen. The winners of “Chef Wanted” all start work right away.

"We really want people to stay," says Burrell, “Chef Wanted’s” chief headhunter. “That’s what sets us apart.”

 ??  ?? Anne Burrell sees a prospectiv­e executive chef for New York’s Old Homestead Steakhouse. At far r. is co-owner Marc Sherry.
Anne Burrell sees a prospectiv­e executive chef for New York’s Old Homestead Steakhouse. At far r. is co-owner Marc Sherry.

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