When "The Chew," ABC's daytime food talk show debuted last year, we were left a little unimpressed and so were many others. HuffPost Food revisited the show a month later and saw a slight improvement, but still felt like there was a long way to go. The show's conversations and cooking content felt dumbed down and the pacing was erratic, at best.
Fast forward a year later. The show's second season premiered on September 10 with Katie Couric as the celebrity guest. There was one thing noticeably different from the beginning of the first season: the hosts actually have some chemistry. The palpable awkwardness from early on has almost completely disappeared. In a recent interview with Eater, Mario Batali shed some light on this, saying, "I never would have chosen my roommates, but after a year of working with them, I realize that they don't have weird ulterior motives. These are pure people." At a recent taping that HuffPost Food attended, host Clinton Kelly readily admitted that it was awkward at first. "Now we actually know each other as hosts," he says.
During the season two premiere, the five hosts caught each other up on their summer vacations, and the audience learned that Mario Batali sent a pie to each one of his co-hosts (Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz and Michael Symon). The gesture managed to come across as completely genuine, rather than a pre-arranged stunt organized by the show.
The other major issue with early episodes of "The Chew" was its overly frenetic pace. It seemed as if the hosts could barely catch their breath between segments. On this point Kelly also acknowledged that they've been working on slowing things down.
So now that the hosts interact more comfortably and the pace has slowed down some, is the show any good? It's all about perspective it seems -- the studio audience at the season premiere was exceedingly excited to be there. One woman was so overcome with the thought of seeing Michael Symon, she whispered to her friends that she might pass out. The audience was clamoring for free t-shirts, completely swooning over the hosts and inquiring about when their cookbook would be released (September 25, the day before the official one-year anniversary, if you're curious).
While "The Chew" might be bringing a new daytime audience to the literal and figurative table, the show hasn't exactly crossed over to mainstream food culture. Food-obsessives don't really rhapsodize over Daphne Oz's recipes the way they do about Smitten Kitchen's or those from the newest issue of Saveur. But, with over 284,000 followers on Facebook and recent viewership hovering around two million viewers (sometimes dipping below but mostly staying above), "The Chew" does have its fans -- just not necessarily the same ones that read Eater. But why preach to the usual suspects when "The Chew" has managed to identify an untapped fanbase. Maybe there is room for everyone at the table after all.
Here's a few photos of "The Chew" hosts dressed up on set: