‘Around the World in 80 Plates’ review: Fun in France

Quenelle's not easy.

Two episodes in, we  admit that “Around the World in 80 Plates” is already among our list of favorite reality competitions on TV. As we said last week, it has all of the elements of a great competition show in one place — tasty food, racing around, and eliminating people by stabbing them in the back. We actually weren’t sure about the latter twist at first, but it does do something to make this show stand out from the “Top Chefs” and “MasterChefs” of the world.

This week, the competition shifted over to Lyon, France — a city known as one of the food capital for the entire country — and we saw the remaining contestants each have to take part in a race component that this time carried with it some important stakes. Not only did the winner get to learn how to make a difficult local food in quenelle (which looks on the surface a bit like a pile of Jell-O covered in gravy, but is really far more complicated), but they had the chance to do so with the help of one of the most talented chefs in the city.

The reason these race components work is the great mix of contestants. “Chevin” (which we wonder if people actually call him that in real life) is one of those people who believes he excels at everything, and therefore it’s rather fun to watch him go off the rails in trying to pair up wines. Meanwhile, you have someone like Nookie (our self-proclaimed star of the season), who actually looks at a wine-pairing challenge as a mathematical equation to achieve results quickly. Despite their differences, this team (which is the Black Team this week) won — and having the knowledge of the quenelle was really what managed them to win the restaurant service portion of the evening. It’s a good thing they had it, too, since the rest of their meal was pretty mediocre by comparison.

What was fascinating about the elimination this week in the end was seeing how much audience feedback played into the Red Team’s decision as to who to send home — meaning that it really didn’t at all. Despite the fact that the diners actually liked the salad that Sai (master of Thai food, military commands, and also modeling in a chef’s jacket) put on the table, the team didn’t like her commanding personality or the fact that she spent two and a half hours making something that was in theory rather simple. Their decision was ultimately based on who they felt could help them the most in the future with a broad skill set — and that benefits this show to stand out versus a “Top Chef” or a “Celebrity Apprentice,” who eliminate based more on who is doing the best now.

Really, the biggest weaknesses with the show right now are fairly simple — while we get to learn some about the local cuisine, it’s only really about a dish or two versus a whole meal. Meanwhile, we’d also like to see the teams not be so fluid week to week, as being able to switch around between episodes destroys some of the rivalry dynamics a little bit.

We hope that more people start to discover this show as other ones end, mostly because it may just be one of the most entertaining gems on Bravo at the moment.

What did you think about this episode?

Photo: Bravo

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!