At the New York Wine & Food Festival last month, Marcus Samuelsson and Mario Batali participated in a sprawling, and interesting, panel discussion about the state of dining. At one point in their conversation, Samuelsson told Batali what an exciting opportunity he has with The Chew. A food show on a major network is a big deal, Samuelsson explained, and could be a great launching pad for serious discussions about food and society.
When HuffPost Food watched the premiere episode of The Chew, we weren't particularly kind. We found the show erratic, distracted and prone to way too many commercials breaks. We rounded up Twitter reactions (not very praiseworthy, especially from the dismayed soap opera fans) and listed the five most awkward moments. Shows can often be rocky at the start and we realized that our gut reactions weren't a fair measure of a show that we, like Samuelsson, are rooting for.
So today, exactly a month later, we gave it another shot. It is clear that the producers listened to the mounting criticisms, as the pace was slowed down and bit and the hosts didn't seem so constantly out of breath. We enjoyed Michael Symon's easygoing presence and it was a joy to watch Carla Hall demonstrate meatloaf -- she's a good instructor. But apart from these small moments of relative zen, this episode of The Chew still suffered from many of the original ailments. The producers still don't quite know how to deal with five hosts at once and are cramming in more segments than necessary.
In preparation for Halloween, the hosts discussed everything from Lady Gaga's meat dress to spookily-decorated houses across the country. Such discussions felt forced and off topic from the show's theme. Today, for example, there was way too much focus on Daphne Oz's weird vampire teeth. Our biggest gripe, however, is with the assumption that the audience doesn't know anything about food. Batali admitted to Grub Street that he expected to be ripped apart by the New York press, because the show is "more Peoria than Manhattan." But who is to say that Peoria residents want to hear Clinton Kelly blabbing on about his Halloween childhood memories? Viewers deserve to be challenged a bit, not taught how to make "scary pizza" and "monster" mashed potatoes.
The Chew has the potential to be something big, and great. We're hoping that it can get to that point.
Watch highlights of the October 26 episode of The Chew: