The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck
Oxygen devised a new show from a most novel idea: produce a “food show” as a documentary, or in their terms, as a “docu-series.” The show, The Naughty Kitchen, has the drama of the popular Top Chef without the competition. Instead, it delves into the mania and frenzy of the restaurant business from Chef Blythe Beck’s perspective. Chef Beck was recently named executive chef of the highly regarded Dallas restaurant, Central 214. The docu-series, therefore, documents Chef Beck’s ascension to the role of executive chef, as well as the trials and tribulations that await her in her quest to achieve, in her words, “total world culinary domination.” In a nutshell, think female chef bildungsroman—or, in this case, bildungsTV.
Yesterday Oxygen premiered the first episode of the series for bloggers in New York City. The first episode is driven by the plot line of Chef Beck’s, and Central 214’s, first major culinary review in the Dallas Morning News. Being the first episode, of course, the episode spends the necessary time introducing the show’s cast of characters: here, in addition to Chef Beck, kudos goes to the so-called “Door Whores” Emily and (new hire) Curtis, who pass their time out in front of the restaurant by entertaining themselves in the most hilarious of ways. In the first episode, Tweedle-E and Tweedle-C venture a spelling bee challenge. Emily stymies Curtis with the term “horrogenous,” which, in her estimation, is a word (a noun, it seems) that refers to plants, like horticulture, except it’s not. Needless to say, all the fun doesn’t just take place in the kitchen on this show.
At the premiere I had a chance to talk with Chef Beck, who is just as warm and lovely as she appears on television (and, to note, just as pink as well!). She spoke to me about the challenges facing women in the culinary world—the name calling, the exclusion, and the pervasive sexual harassment—and her dream of “total world culinary domination.” To achieve this goal, she says, she needs to know the “dirty food secrets” of everyone around the world. Knowing these secrets—her dirty secret is mall pizza, by the way—will enable her to create the most naughty, most delicious, of dishes to over indulge the palate.
“Naughty” foods, clearly, are foods made of creams, butter, and bacon that are not touted as “healthy.” Decadent foods are naughty; fatty foods are naughty; sugary foods are, alas, naughty. This we all know, but Chef Beck implores us to indulge, just a little, and it is this encouragement to indulge through the creation of some sinful dishes (see her fried chicken dishes, particularly) that makes Chef Beck just as naughty as her food.
In the first episode, we hear the Dallas Morning News patronize Chef Beck’s naughtiness as “schtick,” but in their critique, they fail to understand Chef Beck’s culinary creations in their totality. In other words, they look solely at the end product—the plate of fried chicken—and say, “How naughty?” What they overlook is what we, the viewers, are able to see played out on the show: naughty is a lifestyle. It’s a continuous process that encompasses every step in the act of creation of food and of life. It’s not just the end product.
Chef Beck was gracious to partake in a quick game of word association. I asked her to shout out the first word that came to her mind. Here is the game, as it played out:
Chef Beck: Hangover
Chef Beck: Me
Chef Beck: Kitchen
Chef Beck: Avocado
Chef Beck: Powerful
The Naughty Kitchen airs Tuesday nights at 10pm EST on Oxygen starting tonight!