Restaurant News

"Sophisticated" Reality TV Returns with Top Chef Masters, and Tucson Makes Food Wars Watchable, in This Week's "TV Dinner"

Wading through the grease pit of bland food, cooking, and eating shows focusing on cheap shopping, bogus belly busters, and chefs more familiar with cursing than conjuring up a decent dish, we've paid our dues to the TV gods (Kraken release avoided!) -- at least for the time being.

In return, we've been rewarded with a week of fabulous foodie TV, including the return of Bravo's Top Chef Masters for its second season. Imagine: No frenzied first-timers, no smarmy semi-pros striving to be the next reality TV "star" -- just established, non-needy pros cookin' up some kick-ass food for their opponents.

More Top Chef Masters dirt, how Tucson saved Food Wars, Zane Lamprey goes drinking (again), and your must-see food TV schedule after the jump.

Save for the annoying, I'm-not-interested-in-eating-even-though-I'm-the-host-of-a-cooking-show Kelly Choi, Top Chef Masters has come right out of the gate with a great first episode (make a meal from gas-station goods) and TV's most entertaining faction of foodie judges: Jay Rayner as the Brit with Wit, James Oseland as the Cut-Down with a Smile, and Gael Greene as the Lively Lady of Gab.

Winner predictions? Loving Rick Moonen right now, but it's too early to say.

Speaking of love, hearts and flowers to Tucson for making last week's Food Wars watchable. Featuring a broken friendship, competing restaurants down the street from each other, and a super-fan brother-versus-brother upset, it was a real food fight, not the battle of boredom it usually is.

This week, Zane Lamprey (fun name!) gets worldwide wasted on Three Sheets premiering this Wednesday night, and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution continues after what seemed like a pre-finale last week with the redemption of radio Rod and the 1,000-cooks bet. (sniff, sniff) Is that the smell of uh-oh in the air?

Here's the schedule:

Monday (April 12)

Early Show: Marcus Samuelsson, Swedish chef and co-owner of Aquavit restaurant in New York City and C-House Restaurant, located in the Affinia Hotel in Chicago. 7 a.m., Channel 5, CBS

Dr. Oz Show: "Secrets That Restaurants Don't Want You to Know." Restaurant secrets are revealed. 11 a.m., Channel 3, KTVK

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations: "Maine." Tony visits Maine for a taste of local food and culture. 10 p.m., Travel Channel

Tuesday (April 13)

Martha Stewart Show: "Easy Italian Recipes." Italian recipes with Mario Batali include spaghetti con le sarde, linguine with clams and penne alla puttanesca. 9 a.m., Channel 15, ABC

Chopped: "My Froggy Clementine." The chefs must use frog legs in their appetizers; a fizzy Caribbean staple in the entrées; and clementines and scotch in their desserts. 10 p.m., Food Network

Wednesday (April 14)

(*New Show!) Three Sheets: "Hawaii." A tour of Hawaii. Included: beer made with cane sugar, porter made with coconuts; and vodka made with pineapples or ocean water. "Tuscany." A tour of Tuscany includes a sampling of Chianti and a visit to a Chianti maker. Also: a grape-stomping competition; "Super Tuscan" wines. 11 and 11:30 p.m., Travel Channel

Top Chef Masters:
"It's My Party." Meal masters Carmen Gonzalez, David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Monica Pope and Thierry Rautureau serve up fare for a birthday bash thrown by actor Mekhi Phifer and his pals. 10 p.m., Bravo

Thursday (April 15)

Ace of Cakes: "Bake, Rattle and Roll." A guitar cake is made to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Acoustic Guitar Magazine. Also: Duff creates a cake for the pediatric unit of the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta. 10 p.m., Food Network

Friday (April 16)

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: Jamie is shocked by the response of students of Huntington High School when he asks them to choose between a lunch menu of processed junk food or fresh fare. Later, to gain funding, he must rely on the testimony of his biggest adversary, Central Elementary's head cook, Alice Gue. 8 p.m., Channel 15, ABC

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills: "Foodzilla." The chefs become unwitting participants in a medieval murder mystery party held at a Scottish-style castle in Los Angeles. 10 p.m., Food Network

Saturday (April 17)

30-Minute Meals: "High Steaks." Included: panko-crusted tuna burgers; Asian hot-and-sweet pickles. 10 a.m., Food Network

Down Home With the Neelys: "Family Style." Grilled sweet-and-tangy pork chops; grilled corn with feta, cayenne and lime; potato salad; and sweet-potato-pie cookies. 11 a.m., Food Network

Cooking for Real: "Warm and Fuzzy Spring." Roasted chicken, served with minty lima-bean puree and a PB&J "choc-tini." 12 p.m., Food Network

Sunday (April 18)

Alex's Day Off: "Soup and Sandwich." Preparing homemade soup with chicken broth, braised beef marrow and veal meatballs. Also: crunchy toasts with olive oil and goat-cheese spread; and chocolate-drop cookies with melted white chocolate. 9:30 a.m., Food Network

Sandra's Money Saving Meals: "Taco Truck." Inexpensive Mexican eats, including fish tacos, bean-and-cheese tamales; churros; and Clementine margaritas. 12 p.m., Food Network

Big Daddy's House: "Bangin' Brunch." A brunch menu, featuring phyllo-wrapped huevos rancheros with lime guacamole; corned beef hash; and spicy Bloody Marys with muffaletta skewers. 1:30 p.m., Food Network

Food Network Challenge: "Sugar Impossible." Sugar showpieces depicting elaborate sci-fi scenes are built by four competitors. 8 p.m., Food Network

Ultimate Recipe Showdown: "Hometown Favorites." Four amateur cooks prepare regional favorites while competing for a $25,000 prize. 9 p.m., Food Network

(*Season Two Opener!) Chefs vs. City: "All-Star Miami." Season 2 opens in Miami, where chefs Chris Cosentino and Aaron Sanchez challenge Claire Robinson ("5 Ingredient Fix") and Sunny Anderson ("Cooking for Real") to a foodie face-off. 10 p.m., Food Network