Bravo's appetizing new culinary competition, Around the World in 80 Plates, follows 12 chefs as they race across 10 countries--Spain, China, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Italy, Morocco, Thailand, England, and of course, the U.S.--in 40 days, sampling customs and cuisines and then re-creating local delicacies on their own for the evaluation of discerning natives.
Hosted by two eye-candy chefs, Iron Chef Cat Cora and Take Home Chef's Curtis Stone, 80 Plates also boasts a rotating cast of visiting celebrity chefs, such as Nigella Lawson, Wolfgang Puck, José Andrés, Narda Lepes, and Alvin Leung, serving as “food ambassadors” to help the contestants (or cheftestants) understand local cuisine.
After 40 days on the road, you’d expect Cora (who is also a mom) and her cast mates to be exhausted. Not so. “I was actually rejuvenated," said Cora after filming finished. "It was the best production I've ever worked on and definitely one of the most exciting.”
One cheftestant, Nicole Lou--who nearly went home in Episode 2 for not making enough haddock--says that it isn't the constant travel that makes Around the World in 80 Plates so grueling. It's the elimination rounds. "The decision to vote off one of your talented peers was tough, since everyone brought a specific set of skills to the table."
For example, Lou spent years in a corporate cubicle before heading to the California Culinary Academy for a career change (eventually ending up as the sous-chef at Bushi-Tei in San Francisco). "My parents definitely wanted me to have a more comfortable life but are proud of their food-slinging daughter," she says.
Guest host Hugh Acheson joked on his blog that the winner of 80 Plates "gets a schmancy Infiniti JX Crossover and a big pile of traveler’s cheques, as the Euro was deemed too risky. The stakes get continually more lavish in food television. If memory serves, the prize for the first season of Top Chef was $378 and a 1983 Chevette."
Around the World in 80 Plates airs Wednesdays on Bravo, at 10/9PM Central.