Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cooking Around the World

Anything that combines food and travel definitely gets my vote. So when I heard about the new Bravo show, "Around the World in 80 Plates," I knew I had to check it out.

The concept is pretty simple. Twelve chefs travel around the world, putting their cooking skills to the test in various competitions. Each episode takes place in a different city where the chefs learn the local cuisine, customs and cultures. In the first two episodes, the chefs have been split into two teams and have to race through the city completing tasks that will educate them on local fare. Whoever wins the competition gets to use the "secret ingredient" at the ultimate challenge, where the teams take over a restaurant's kitchen, recreate the delicacies they tasted earlier and have the residents of the city judge their personal interpretations of the dishes.At the end of the competition, the diners pick which team they like best. The losing team then has to pick one of its chefs to go home.

In the first episode, the chefs were in London. They went on a pub crawl where they tasted steak and kidney pie, blood pudding, and fish and chips--and of course drank lots of great British beer. The winning team won the right to use potatoes in their dishes, which is pretty much a staple in all British dishes, while the other team was not allowed to use that ingredient. It was certainly interesting to see what they used to substitute for potatoes, and all the dishes they created looked amazing. I personally love traditional British pub food, so I could appreciate everything they made.

The second episode takes place in Lyon, France. The teams race through the Beaujolais countryside, where they face some interesting sheep challenges. In the first task, they have to identify the six cheeses that are made from sheep milk, and there are at least 20 cheeses on the table. That's a lot of cheese, but I would certainly be ok with that challenge, because I love cheese, especially French varieties. Later, they had to taste eight different kinds of wine and pair them with the foods that were infused in the bottles. The winning team was taught how to make a famous regional dish, pike quenelle with nantua sauce, from a master chef in Lyon, while the other team had to fend for themselves on how to make the signature dish. It seems like a simple meal, but its actually kind of complicated. Once again, it was interesting to see how the teams executed the dishes. It really made me want to try all these French delicacies, and I certainly plan on visiting Lyon the next time I go to France.

The next city is Barcelona, Spain, a place I've actually been. I really hope they have to make tapas, because the city is known for its simple, shareable dishes. I'm curious to see what happens. 

I am definitely enjoying the series, though I do prefer Top Chef when it comes to cooking shows. So, I recommend the show for anyone who really appreciates international cuisine and world travel.

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