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Why “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen” is the best cooking “competition” show on television

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I watched Dancing with the Stars until I came to the realization that I really only enjoyed the show when they essentially cast ringers to dance with the professionals. Gymnasts, skaters, singers (who often have to dance in their videos or on tour). They already had a lot of the basics down or–at the very least– had an innate grace. What it boils down to this: I didn’t want watch people dance poorly, I wanted to watch them dance really well!

I find that when it comes to cooking competitions, a similar dynamic is at play, because I don’t want to watch chefs cook barely-edible food because they’ve been forced to work with weird or disgusting ingredients or ridiculous time constraints. I want to watch chefs cook with beautiful, luxurious ingredients and make food so delicious it makes the judges turgid.

The first season of Tournament of Champions really scratched this itch. As it was a competition, they, of course, had some challenging ingredients and time constraints, but I could have sworn the focus was mostly on renowned chefs cooking great food. As the seasons have progressed, however, it’s basically become “Famous Chopped.” And I hate Chopped, because it makes me anxious. And as the judges nitpick and scowl at the food, I always wonder what the show would look like if, say, the ingredient basket were just a hair easier, and the chefs had an hour to work instead of half of one.

And that’s why Guy’s Ranch Kitchen is now the only cooking “competition” show worth watching. Because there are no time constraints. No disgusting ingredients. Just artists making their art in a lovely outdoor kitchen. There’s a sense of camaraderie, and there’s a sense that everyone’s just there to make and eat great food. The vibes couldn’t be better. It’s really delightful and I wish more cooking shows used it as a template.

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