Recommended: Chefs vs. Wild on Hulu
What's Chefs vs. Wild About?
Dropped into the British Columbian wilderness, world class chefs must battle the elements and forage for wild ingredients to create an elegant meal.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
At first glance, Chefs vs. Wild looks like yet another ridiculous food obstacle show that is determined to prevent chefs from actually cooking. The premise certainly supports this theory: in order to make it to the fully-stocked “wilderness kitchen,” the chefs must first find shelter, brave the elements, and avoid serious injury and poisonous wildlife. Their ability to forage becomes yet another hurdle, as the success of their dishes relies entirely on the ingredients they find in the wilderness.
But the series quickly proves itself to be a cut above the Guy’s Grocery Games of the world. Chefs vs. Wild is grounded in a deep respect for the land, and it goes to great lengths to honor the native foods found throughout this strip of coastal British Columbia. This is less a credit to the show’s diverse group of chefs than their survivalist partners. Intimately familiar with the region, these survivalists serve as unparalleled resources, and their ability to locate four pine mushrooms or a single huckleberry shrub in the dense forest never ceases to amaze. From a narrative standpoint, the pairings also provide a new source of conflict, as when one survivalist clashes with a chef who wants to dry age mushrooms in a manner she deems unsafe.
The respect paid to these wild ingredients extends to the cooking portion of the show (each 40-minute episode is split evenly between survivalism and kitchen time). Unlike other cooking competitions — or even other survival shows, for that matter — Chefs vs. Wild never suggests its foraged foods are somehow “foreign” or gross. For instance, in the first episode, a scene in which chef Sammy Monsour collects beetles is played without even a whiff of xenophobia; rather, a note pops up informing viewers that “beetles are the most commonly eaten insect and can also be ground up to create flours.” Later, Sammy grinds up the beetles to make stuffing for his tortellini en brodo appetizer, and though American viewers might balk as he combines them with elk heart, there’s no denying that the finished product looks remarkable.
Kiran Jethwa is largely absent until the chefs reach the wilderness kitchen, but when it comes time to judge their dishes, his feedback reflects a vast knowledge of wild edibles. Together, Jethwa and Segrest, who brings a unique perspective to the judging panel as an expert in native foods of the Pacific Northwest, work to place these dishes in a larger cultural and environmental context, and the result is both distinct and captivating.
Pairs well with
TOPICS: Chefs vs. Wild, Hulu, David Chang, Kiran Jethwa, Stephen Rankin, Valerie Segrest