Two things happened between my viewing of the first and second episodes of “House of Food,” the new MTV series that combines all of the yelliness of “The Real World” with none of the cooking of “Top Chef.” First, I began following key cast members across social media, which becomes an impenetrable wall of self-promotional sound shortly after each episode airs. I hoped to learn more about their lives, with the idea that doing so would give me greater insight and therefore a greater ability to write snarky things on the internet.
What I found was shocking. SHOCKING! Among the things I learned?
This “Amanda” person (@TheAmandaJean), who you may remember from the last episode as the hard-rocking rock-and-roller who dared to mash barbecue sauce-soaked hamburger into some cupcakes, may have less of an interest in being a chef, and more of a focus on being some kind of tattooed bikini butt model. To wit:
GASP! Could MTV have cast one of the cheftestants based on something other than raw talent or culinary merit? That’s right, “Amanda Jean” has apparently already made quite a name for herself in the world of tattoo magazines, nightclub hosting, and mall openings; this new focus on cooking and becoming a chef is destined to be nothing more than another feather in her cap.
Also? “Mentor” Chris Nirchel refers to himself online as “The Culinary Bad Boy” (@CulinaryBadBoy). So there’s that.
But I’ve got plenty of time to regale you with tales of my advanced Facebook-creeping. There’s much more to talk about, which brings me to the second important thing that happened before episode two: MTV apparently decided to start over, and not tell anyone.
That’s right. After the first episode, the cast went home for a while, then returned to an all new house, even bigger and trashier in the Hollywood Hills, so we get to enjoy the first day montage of the cast running around and shrieking over their deluxe accommodations all over again. In the wake of the artificial cliffhanger from last episode, where it was unclear if hard-rocking rock-and-roll Amanda would be returning, the producers even introduced a whole new person in the form of Harrison, a plaid short wearing bro-type who looks great in a tank top and who I came to mentally refer to as “Waxy Ben Affleck.”
“First impression? I was like, dayyyyyyuummmmmmmmm…what’s up?” -Lorena
The weirdest thing is that none of this is explained or even acknowledged. As viewers, we’re expected to understand that sometimes, you just need a do-over. And if any show needed a few tries to get rolling, it’s this one. Onto the events of the week!
Immediately on Harrison’s arrival, Suki and Will begin racing around the house giggling about how much they dislike the new arrival. “He reminds me of marinara sauce — greasy red and full of flavor,” says Will, in a demonstration of what happens when you fail to think through your metaphor before you begin speaking.
Mentor Chris Nirchel appears poolside in the nick of time to bring some Culinary Bad Boy-itude to the proceedings, and to “make introductions in a culinary type of way,” by announcing that Harrison will be continuing the “Personality on a Plate” challenge from the Episode One that we’re not supposed to acknowledge ever happened. Harrison decides to make Veal Parmigiana for the house, because his personality is that he is a milk-raised baby calf. Sisters Suki and Will make a big show of refusing to eat the meal Harrison prepared, electing instead to eat buttered noodles in the corner like a couple of sulky toddlers, and because they are the worst.
Two more things happen before the show does its traditional abrupt midpoint shift into being a reality cooking competition: Amanda arrives with much fanfare (“Whattup, bitches?”), and because Valtrex is expensive. Also, Harrison and Lorena share a midnight kiss, the details of which will be revisited several more times over the course of the episode, as one of the lamest and least interesting “did they or didn’t they” moments in televised history. They did.
Finally, the grownups arrive, in the form of Chefs Brendan Collins, Brooke Williamson and Casey Lane, to demonstrate the importance of teamwork to the young cheftestants, who can’t believe that their next challenge will be taking place in a diner instead of in a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles (“Oh. My. God.”).
The usual cooking reality show tropes are trotted out, including a reminder that it’s important to call back to the expediter when an order is placed with time estimates, that coordinating things that cook at different temperatures and at different speeds is difficult, and that, yes, even a club sandwich can be tricky to pull off in a busy kitchen. Everyone is impressed with the speed and precision of the professionals, and when the kids try it, they manage to work reasonably well together. The cast is split into two teams: Team Harrison, Suki, Gillian and Brian vs. Team Lorena, William, Jake and Amanda, who will each execute a lunch service the next day and be evaluated on efficiency, speed, with a goal of turning tickets around in 12 minutes or less.
Because Suki can’t seem to figure out the fryer, Team Harrison manages to serve mostly soggy food (some of which gets sent back) and scrambled eggs that “look like shit,” but they manage to do it in around 16 minutes per ticket. Team Lorena, Will, Jake and Amanda do much worse, and are even forced to stop cooking after Chef Brendan starts to claw his eyes out over their incompetence, which includes the horrors of dropped tongs, piles of dirty dishes, and the (!!!) mixing of white and wheat bread in one club sandwich.
At the end of the competition, it’s clear to all involved who won, and who lost, which is interesting because it reminds us as viewers that we are the biggest losers in this entire exercise. Chef Casey is visibly upset by the teams’ performance, voice cracking as he scolds both teams, but Chef Brendan says that “there’s no reason for you guys not to go home and sleep,” though he urges them, as he does every episode, to think again about why they’re all here.
It is, perhaps, good advice for us all.
Random Thoughts from This Episode:
- “I don’t eat red meat, and I’m not gonna eat a baby red meat.” -Suki
- “Just so you’re aware, tomorrow’s gonna suck. You’re all gonna suck.” Words of wisdom from Chef Brendan, who is looking more and more like Aaron Paul crossed with a barn owl.
- I DID like it when Harrison finally came clean with the incredibly dull details of “The Kiss in the Pantry,” only to have Will quip, “I like that story.” For once, his sass seemed to get used for the forces of good.
- Does Lorena speak with a lisp? Or have that weird accent where you’re Hawaiian or something? It’s confusing.
- “You guys tried. It was terrible. Done.” – Chris Nirchel