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If it feels like every iteration of chef show has been tried, the reality is that it’s not even close. For instance, there’s no iteration that has chefs foraging in the wilderness for two days then having to make a five-star meal out of what they found… until now, that is.

Opening Shot: Host Kiran Jethwa hovers over the site in British Columbia where two chefs will spend 48 hours foraging for ingredients.

The Gist: In Chefs Vs. Wild (Hulu), two chefs well versed in using ingredients from the wild are paired with survivalists that know the area, and they’re given 48 hours to forage for ingredients that they’ll use to prepare a three-course meal.

A protein is provided — in the case of episode 1, it’s elk hearts and loins — but most of the rest of what will be in the appetizer, entree and dessert courses needs to be foraged. Chef Viet Pham is desperately in search of pine mushrooms due to their florid, woodsy nature. He has trouble finding them, but Chef Sammy Monsour spots them almost right away. He wants to tie them to a fishing line and smoke them at night, but his guide Robin thinks that’s dangerous; he ignores her and does it anyway.

Viet finds some great oysters on Day 2 and, while he never finds the pine mushrooms, he does find a mushroom called chicken of the woods, which has a similar texture and taste to chicken. Sammy is looking for sumac for his dessert, and takes most of the two days to find it. On the first night, though, he does find beetles, which he’s going to grind into the filling for tortellini.

Chefs Vs. Wild
Photo: HULU

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Combine Top Chef or Chopped with Man Vs. Wild, and you have Chefs Vs. Wild.

Our Take: Because the episodes are only about 40 minutes, the producers of Chefs Vs. Wild end up reducing the “wild” part to about 20-25 minutes. Imagine 48 hours of your life reduced to that tiny amount of time. You wouldn’t see much, right? That how we feel with this series; the parts where the chefs forage seem too fast and, to be honest, a bit too easy. And once the chefs get to the spectacular outdoor kitchen to cook with what they gathered, the show basically proceeds just like any other cooking competition show.

We would have liked to have seen these chefs have more difficulty, especially because neither one of them seemed to be all that accustomed to be out in the woods without much to eat and not much shelter from the elements. Sure, their survivalist partners likely helped keep them both from eating a poisonous berry or fungus, and having the camera crews around likely kept the chefs from falling down a crevasse. Viet seemed to have an especially tough time adapting. But we only really saw that in pieces or from interviews with the chefs talking about how exhausted they were.

We also would have liked to known more about how they knew about various ingredients native to that part of B.C. and what flavors they bring to dishes. Is this something they studied up on in preparation for this show, or is this something that they’ve been studying their whole careers? At one point, Viet chuckles at the idea that Sammy had “dry aged” his pine mushrooms, leading the brittle Sammy to snap back at him. That’s the sign of deeper knowledge than just something that was studied online.

Sex and Skin: Nothing but food porn shots.

Parting Shot: The winner is declared, and gets… nothing but the satisfaction of winning, we think.

Sleeper Star: We felt bad for Robin Lafreniere, the survivalist that worked with Sammy. Every time she made a suggestion based on, you know, her knowledge of the area, Sammy said something like, “Dude, why are you trying to stop me at every turn?” At one point, Sammy wanted to use a machete to get through some brush, even though Robin spotted an opening. She seemed to take his dickishness in stride.

Most Pilot-y Line: “I like that there are pieces of beetle that didn’t get finely ground,” Sammy says in a line you’ll never hear on Top Chef.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Despite the episodes not being structured in the most entertaining way, Chefs Vs. Wild shows what can be done with wild ingredients when they’re in the hands of top chefs who know the foods’ flavor profiles and have the creativity to prepare the ingredients properly.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.

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