The Chefs’ Line is a new twist on the Australian cooking show, airing at 6pm Monday through Friday with each episode spanning 30 minutes. The show is hosted and adjudicated by executive chef Dan Hong, food writer Melissa Leong and renowned chef Mark Olive in its competition span (Monday – Thursday), and hosted by SBS favourite Maeve O’Meara – famous in food circles for her Food Safari series – every Friday night.
The immediate appeal of the show is down to the easy-going charms of its hosts – whose backgrounds cover a wide range of food expertise – and its utter devotion to focusing upon the food above all else. The recipe is as follows: select an international cuisine (my favourite thus far has been Lebanese), select a renowned restaurant that specialises in said cuisine, and pit 4 of its chefs (from apprentice through to head chef – aka the chefs’ line) against four home cooks whose lineage is from that culture. Each night one home cook is eliminated, with the grand finale being the Thursday night challenge, where the last remaining home cook takes on the top chef of the restaurant. Then on Friday nights, Maeve visits the restaurant itself to see the team in their home environment and to sample some of their wonderful food.
In the last decade or so, Australia has undergone a food revolution. A large part of that can be attributed to the success and growth of Channel Ten’s Masterchef series, and in more recent history Channel 7’s My Kitchen Rules. The positive impact that these shows have had on our national culinary awareness and the subsequent explosion in the availability of cuisines from every part of the globe cannot be understated. However, in recent times the Masterchef format has become quite bloated, with some episodes spanning 95+ minutes – a large portion size for any type of TV show. MKR swaps out excessively long episodes for synthetic drama, with episodes often playing out like a daytime soap that happens to feature food. If you love food and food shows, you may find that these recipes are not to your taste.
And this is where The Chefs’ Line really wins out over its more familiar and arguably more celebrated competitors. Its format is fundamentally lean and concise: each episode runs 30 minutes and in that time they have up to 5 people cooking. They introduce and provide sufficient background information on all the contestants, as well as the restaurant and weekly cuisine, however the focus primarily lies on the preparation and celebration of the food. Guiding the viewer in this more lean and streamlined method are the three hosts, who all weigh in with useful tidbits of information to help the viewer follow some of the more traditional and exotic dishes, and to get a feel for what the dish of the night should taste like in order to be the best.
Accordingly, due to its focus on food, I find that each episode –whilst significantly shorter in length than its rivals – is often more nourishing in as far as learning about new cultures, cuisines and cooking techniques. The Chefs’ Line may never get the viewership of either of its larger competitors, however I strongly believe that its format and the purity and simplicity of its focus ensures that those who sample it will become regular diners.