What’s better than a family meal followed by a trip to Disney World? A special meal made by family together, a trip to Disney World, and an exciting tournament to tie it all together, of course!
“Be Our Chef,” the new cooking competition show available on Disney+, combines all these elements into a delicious batch of fun, family-friendly episodes that can inspire families to dive into their own bonding experiences at home.
Hosted by a peppy Angela Kinsey (known for her starkly different, dour role as Angela in “The Office”), the competition involves five families who face off two at a time for a themed culinary challenge. After 10 rounds, the two families with the most wins will cook against each other in a final, championship round. The grand prize waiting at the very end: a Disney cruise vacation for the champion family.
Each cooking challenge, served up in a bite-size 25-minute episode, hearkens to a Disney movie to inspire the teams’ dishes. To add a flair of surprise, mini games sprinkled throughout the series test the contestants’ quick reflexes, food trivia knowledge, and on-the-fly teamwork.
While some cooking shows are known for heated competition and arguments, ruthless judges, and strange ingredients, “Be Our Chef” offers a more uplifting, approachable kitchen experience, without being bland in the slightest.
The key ingredient, it turns out, is the centrality of family teamwork and bonding throughout the show. From the start, we find that these families are not restaurant owners, award-winning chefs, or even ambitious recipe pioneers. They are ordinary families who simply enjoy cooking together. This emphasis on kitchen-born family affection over culinary expertise has an endearing effect. For instance, when one daughter announces to the camera that her team’s recipe includes pancetta, her dad whispers to her with a smile that it’s actually prosciutto. In another family, the dad — who is described more as a taste-tester than a contributing cook — laughs at his cluelessness around the food processor and, on several occasions, lovingly calls upon his wife to come to the rescue.
But don’t be fooled: This show is anything but “Worst Cooks in America.” Families face challenges with determination and skill. Together, they come up with some wildly impressive creations. In the first episode, when the teams are faced with the Cinderella-themed challenge of transforming a comfort food into a gourmet specialty, the Merrills concoct a bread bowl of tomato soup shaped like the princess’ carriage — complete with tiny cheese hubcaps. And when the next pair of families must create a delicious yet healthy dessert reminiscent of “Big Hero 6,” the Platts assemble a Baymax-shaped mochi ice cream sandwich that incorporates avocado and honey.
Each challenge is judged by a head chef at one of Disney World’s top-tier restaurants or confectionaries. When these professionals arrive to sample the teams’ delectable displays, even they are impressed with the artistic and flavorful dishes that appear before them.
While the high-achieving recipes serve to impress and entertain audiences, not all the creations are so intimidating. Some might even inspire families to gather in their own kitchens to whip up some edible Disney-themed meals of their own. For instance, mix some sugar-glazed bacon bits with some hash browns and throw a fried egg on top, and you’ve got the fundamentals of Gus Gus’ Hash. Melt some gruyère, brie, and goat cheese on slices of baguette bread, and you’ve got some fancified grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
As the families compete, their ability to win privileges and inflict penalties on each other adds tantalizing drama — but without souring the mood. Even while teams eye their opponents’ progress with a drive to outshine them, and even as the ticking clock pressures them to stay focused and efficient, the friendly spirit never wanes.
When one family imposes a “time-out” penalty on their opponents, they can’t help but feel bad (especially when a wide-eyed four-year-old sadly steps off her kitchen stool for the required three minutes) and sheepishly apologize for dealing the blow. When the judges offer their evaluations, they make sure to thank and commend each team, highlighting the positive aspects of the dishes while also offering constructive criticism. And although Kinsey’s high-pitched energy can get overbearing at times, the hostess does a fine job overall of fueling an atmosphere of positivity. As she emphasizes in the very first episode, “The most important ingredient is to have fun!” Fortunately, as the series unfolds, that crucial ingredient is never lost.
When it comes to the difficult task of searching for a series that the whole family can enjoy, “Be Our Chef” is an excellent option. It has something to offer for everyone: fast-paced competition, adorable families and kids, delicious and doable recipes, and of course, a touch of Disney magic. Bon appetit!