‘Around the World in 80 Plates’ review: A trip worth taking

Do we have an instant hit here?

When “Around the World with 80 Plates” was first announced, we were almost immediately excited in that there were elements of a number of established reality hits. Basically, the concept was a cooking competition that borrowed from “Top Chef,” while at the same time combining the race element of “The Amazing Race” along with the elimination strategy of “Survivor.” It’s a mash-up … but it just so turns out that it is a complete and total blast to watch.

Basically, the concept of the show is simple — every week, contestants visit a city and have complete a basic race around to various locales in order to try out locale cuisine. The first team to complete the race gets an advantage in a later service, where the teams take over a restaurant and try to cook some of the best local food that they can. The customers actually vote on a favorite, and then the losing team ends up voting off who they feel should leave the competition.

The premiere took place in London, and the race portion of the show had some rather fascinating tasks — such as drinking an entire yard of beer or eating what was basically blood pudding — they introduced us to British cuisine, while at the same time giving us a sort of reality TV drama that everyone loves. In the process, we even did meet a few stars for the show, from the official Boston Red Sox chef (Nookie) to a Thai chef with some sort of a side passion in modeling (Sai). Considering that we’re only one episode in, it’s nice that we have a good cast of characters already that we know — including “Chevin,” whose attitude is almost as ridiculous as his name.

While the Red Team (featuring Nookie and a contestant in Jenna who got rather drunk during the race) ended up completing the course first, they still ended up losing the night thanks largely to a steak and kidney pie that was Nookie’s rather disastrous creation. However, he somehow still managed to save himself using a rather interesting strategy — admitting that his dish was bad, and after the other chefs vented about quickly turning the attention onto someone else who may have had a subpar night. With this, Clara from the team was sent home, even though she was far from the worst chef.

As much fun as “80 Plates” is, we will have to wait a few episodes before we know if it the elimination structure is fair, or the show basically shooting itself in the foot. In Nookie’s case, it was good to have a memorable character stay around despite not being the best; however, the last think we want to see is a finale featuring some people who don’t deserve to be there on the basis of cooking talent.

We know that the premiere ratings for “80 Plates” were not great — and the fact that it premiered during May sweeps probably didn’t help. However, we implore you to check out this series — it’s fast-paced, educational, and it may even be the best cooking competition Bravo has put on since “Top Chef All-Stars.” Let’s just hope that it gets some additional weeks to shine moving forward.

Photo: Bravo

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