With no restaurant experience, a passion for cooking, and a dream of one day working as a professional chef, 50 just-like-us contestants will test their skills and palate in hopes of becoming the winner of MasterChef, the cooking competition show coming to Fox on July 29. Gordon Ramsay, the show's host and co-producer, should be able to find the time to work on MasterChef since his recent announcement that he won't be doing any more episodes of Kitchen Nightmares because he keeps getting sued by restaurateurs.
Like American Idol, the MasterChef format comes from England, originally airing on the BBC in 1990. So who's the show's Simon Cowell? What's with Australia airing its 2009 version of MasterChef six nights a week for two and a half months? And, hello, aren't we using the term "Master Chef" a little too loosely?
Coaching and judging contestants on MasterChef will be restaurateur wine maker Joe Bastianich and four-star chef Graham Elliot Bowles. Bastianich is a partner of Mario Batali and has established some of New York's most-celebrated restaurants. Bowles is the youngest four-star chef in the U.S. and the mastermind behind Chicago's first "bistronomic" restaurant, Graham Elliot.
Last year's Australian version of MasterChef was a ratings blockbuster, running for a total of 66 episodes and 10 final episodes (thankfully, the U.S. version is expected to be 12 to 15 hour-long episodes) and fans even made a World of Warcraft machinima homage to it.
Despite the worldwide hype, let's stay calm and see how the U.S. version of MasterChef plays out -- and, please, go easy on the "Master" thing.
Now here's this week's foodie TV schedule so you won't miss a thing. For cable channels, check your local listings.
Monday (June 21)
FoodCrafters: "Burn." Hot-and-spicy food is sampled. Included: beef jerky; jalapeño jelly; hot sauce; and spicy chocolates. 7 p.m., The Cooking Channel
Unique Eats: "Gastropubs." Gastropubs are visited. Included: a place that serves hot dogs and hash browns; and a place that specializes in charcuterie. 7:30 p.m., The Cooking Channel
Cake Boss: "Chopped Head & A Crazy Cravings Cake." French pastries are made for a party with a Marie Antoinette theme; the guys make a cake for Lisa G.'s baby shower to resemble the strange foods she's been craving. "Magazines, a Mega Screen & Maurizio." A high-tech cake for NASDAQ and a cake for O, the Oprah Magazine, are made. 9 and 9:30 p.m., TLC
(New Show!) Inedible to Incredible: "Arctic of Canada." Chef John Besh helps a seemingly hopeless home cook who loves to create bizarre dishes, like strawberry-cornflake burgers, in the series premiere. "Improv Gone Wrong." A woman likes to improvise in the kitchen and rarely follows a recipe, and even her twin toddlers refuse to eat her questionable culinary creations. 10 and 10:30 p.m., TLC
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: "Fast Food Their Way." Unique fast food is spotlighted. Included: mango-chutney chicken and curried goat at a Jamaican cafeteria in Nashville; Chinese-Mexican fusion from a taco truck in Los Angeles. 10 p.m., Food Network
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: "Buenos Aires." The host visits Buenos Aires and explores its meaty culture. 10 p.m., Travel Channel
Tuesday (June 22)
Hell's Kitchen: The remaining chefs must prepare pork-barbecue recipes. After one of them is eliminated, the others must prepare "mother sauces" -- then feed kids at the dinner service. 7 p.m., Channel 10, FOX
Cupcake Wars: "Matchmaking Party." Four bakers compete in an aphrodisiac-inspired cupcake challenge. 9 p.m., Food Network
Chopped: "Keep On, Cook'n On." Fresh pasta, sour pickles and a simple cut of meat are among the featured ingredients. 10 p.m., Food Network
Wednesday (June 23)
Throwdown With Bobby Flay: "Chicken Tikka Masala." Chicken tikka masala is made in a cook-off against the owner of a popular Indian eatery in Hudson, New York. 9 p.m., Food Network
Man v. Food: "Cleveland." The host heads to Melt Bar & Grilled in Cleveland to take on a 5-pound grilled cheese, which features 13 different kinds of cheese. While there, he also gets a taste of Greek gyros and a spicy sausage sandwich. 9 p.m., Travel Channel
Top Chef: Washington D.C.: "Outside the Lunch Box." In support of First Lady Michelle Obama's national initiative to end childhood obesity, the culinary artisans plate healthy kid fare at a middle school. White House chef Sam Kass is the guest judge. 9 p.m., Bravo
Dinner: Impossible: "Caffeine Crash." Robert must use coffee and tea in every dish he makes for a party at the Peet's Coffee & Tea roasting facility in Alameda, California. 10 p.m., Food Network
Thursday (June 24)
Good Eats: "Flat is Beautiful V." Making wood-fired pizza at home. 8:30 p.m., Food Network
Friday (June 25)
Chefs vs. City: "Portland." Aaron and Chris head to Portland, Oregon to compete against local chefs Gabriel Kapustka and Ryan McMullan in a series of culinary challenges. 10 p.m., Food Network
Saturday (June 26)
Mexican Made Easy: "Fausto's 6th Birthday Party." Kid-friendly foods are made. Included: mini pizzas; fruit pops; caramel cupcakes. 9:30 a.m., Food Network
30-Minute Meals: "The Lighter Side of Burgers." Panko-crusted tuna burgers and Asian hot-and-sweet pickles. 10 a.m., Food Network
Paula's Best Dishes: "Southern Touch." Paula Dean prepares a Southern feast with country singer Trisha Yearwood. On the menu: jalapeño hushpuppies with cream-chili sauce; saucy bass with stewed collard greens; and chocolate-pecan cobbler topped with caramel. 11:30 a.m., Food Network
Sunday (June 27)
Alex's Day Off: "Dessert Party!" Desserts are made, including hazelnut-and-caramel biscotti, strawberry tartlets and chocolate pots de crème with homemade whipped cream. 9:30 a.m., Food Network
Foodography: "Cookbooks." Popular cookbooks and their recipes, including the ancient Roman cookbook "Apicius"; and Julia Child's 1961 masterpiece, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." 6 p.m., The Cooking Channel
Drink Up: "Gin." Gin is examined. Included: gin cocktails at Madam Geneva in New York City. 7:30 p.m., The Cooking Channel
Next Food Network Star: "Spicy Competition." Bobby Flay assigns each hopeful a different kind of pepper to cook with. The winning dish will be added to the menu of his restaurant, Mesa Grill. Later, three culinary standouts challenge the contestants to reinvent the best thing they ever ate. 9 p.m., Food Network
Iron Chef America: "Symon vs. Brown." New York chef Ed Brown challenges Iron Chef Michael Symon. 10 p.m., Food Network
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