Review: Cook’d is a half-baked disaster no matter which way you slice it

Cook'd's title card (screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d‘s title card (screenshot via YTV)

D

Oh YTV, what happened? Where did it all go wrong? It’s no secret: YTV isn’t quite as good as it was in the 90s and early 2000s. It has lost that magic and it’s long gone by now. However, instead of helping to turn that around, YTV’s new cooking show Cook’d makes things worse…much worse.
Cook'd's pantry. Don't be fooled by the veggies, it appears as if the dishes have a lot of sugar, salt, butter (Screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d‘s “pantry.” Don’t be fooled by the veggies, it appears as if the dishes have a lot of butter, cheese, salt and/or sugar (Screenshot via YTV)

To start, Cook’d doesn’t seem like any other show I’ve seen on TV, and there’s probably a good reason for that. After the host introduces the three cooks, three kid judges and the episode’s theme (the reviewed episode’s theme is “Fancy Restaurant”), the cooks go through a timed Supermarket Sweep-like grab-everything-you-need-to-make-the-dish frenzy, with the host jumping in and asking the chefs what they’re about to make.

Someone doesn't look quite happy to be on Cook'd (screenshot via YTV)

Chef Jason Cox doesn’t look quite happy to be on Cook’d (screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d calls the place where the food is stored “the pantry,” but I haven’t heard of pantries with shopping carts that look like they were swiped from the nearest Loblaws before. The cooks prepare their food in front of the kids, all while the youngsters and host bombard them and each other with completely unnecessary and often ridiculous questions like, what’s the most out there thing you’ve eaten, what’s the best thing about eating in a fancy restaurant, what makes a fancy restaurant fancy, don’t you ever get tired of cooking and what’s your snack of choice.

One of these chefs is about to get cook'd (screenshot via YTV)

One of these chefs is about to get cook’d (screenshot via YTV)

After the time is up, the kids critique the food and then the cook whose food they liked the least gets “cook’d.” If you’re wondering, the process of getting “cook’d” is a lot like a public hanging. The chefs are standing in front of the kids while the young folks are yelling and shouting the chefs’ names. Then one of the kid judges pulls a lever and the platform under one of the cooks gives way causing the chef to drop into what appears to be some sort of hot tub. The two remaining cooks go at it again, however, this time they might get the kids to assist the chefs in creating the dishes. After the next cook is cooked, (this time a few kids “grossify” the water by throwing toys into it) the remaining chef is presented with a giant silver spoon.

If that sounds like a terrible concept for a show, you’re right, it’s awful, and the execution of that concept might just be as bad or worse than the concept itself.
Host Dave Keystone (screenshot via YTV)

Host Dave Keystone (screenshot via YTV)

The host, Dave Keystone, doesn’t really do the show any favours by acting as if he’s a kid himself. He’s constantly moving around as if he’s in the middle of the greatest sugar high of his life, and he’s quite annoying.

Dave says a bunch of idiotic things throughout the show. He opened Cook’d’s debut episode by saying, “I’m Dave Keystone, you’re you, and this is Cook’d, the greatest kitchen battle of all time. Cooks face their fiercest foes in a game so simple even your parents will get it: Cook it best or get cook’d.” Don’t worry though he saved some gems like “butter stick around” for later on in the show.

Not to be outdone by the kids, Dave also often chimes in with his own stupid questions like, how you feelin’ and how’s it going so far, as if the kids stupid questions weren’t enough.

When he’s not doing that he’s often shouting at the top of his lungs to the point where you can see veins popping out of the side of his neck. To make matters worse, he gets the kids to be just as loud and obnoxious as he is, asking them to cheer the chefs’ names randomly throughout the show.
Michela (screenshot via YTV)

Michela (screenshot via YTV)

If that isn’t bad enough, Cook’d manages to take adorable kids and make them come across as rather unlikeable and snooty. That’s mostly because kids are the judges on this show and television judges by nature have to be discerning and frankly a bit upfront and rude. The mix between a kid being wide eyed and carefree and the role of a typical TV judge is quite awkward, especially when they can’t quite articulate their criticism. For example, one of the judges said that one dish was “very cheesy-flavoured” and she said she’d like another dish to be “easier to eat”—like, what does that mean? However, I think that may simply be a way to create humour during the show.

Rafferty (screenshot via YTV)

Rafferty (screenshot via YTV)

Ainsleigh (screenshot via YTV)

Ainsleigh (screenshot via YTV)

The debut episode had Rafferty as a judge. He acts much older than he is, and might actually be more intelligent and classier than most people three times his age. During the show Rafferty says in all seriousness, “Well the last time I was in Paris I went to this fabulous restaurant—I had snail tart.” That’s complete with a sophisticated accent on the word tart. He’s joined by the kid judge Ainsleigh who thinks she’s a princess and she even wears a tiara. The other judge, Michela, is your typical adorable young girl. You’ll have a hard time not making it through the episode saying, “aww,” and chuckling at a few of her cutesy comments. While it seems as if there are new cooks for every episode the YTV site, however, lists six kid judges. It appears that Rafferty, Ainsleigh and Michela are cycled in and out during the run of the series with Isiah, Hunter and Natasha, the other kid judges, who appear on the official site.

Foreground: The kid judges Background: The Taste Buddies (screenshot via YTV(

Foreground: The kid judges
Background: The Taste Buddies (screenshot via YTV(

Cook'd sometimes turns into Kids Say the Darndest Things (screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d sometimes turns into Kids Say the Darndest Things (screenshot via YTV)

In addition to the judges, there’s a bunch of other kids in the background: the Taste Buddies. They also try out the food and give their opinions, however, when they do, the Taste Buddies come across as an angry mob. As the show seems to just love noise and chaos, they are often encouraged to yell out their opinions on top of each other. Sometimes after exhausting the judges and the chefs with questions, the host runs up to the Taste Buddies to ask them more stupid questions, and to get them to ask their own stupid questions to the chefs. It’s then and there you should see a real Kids Say the Darndest Things vibe in Cook’d (if you haven’t already).

For example, The host asks one of the Taste Buddies what he would add to the menu of a fancy restaurant. The kid says he’d add poutine because you don’t just go to a restaurant for the food, you could go “for the ambiance.” After a young girl asks one of the cooks why she wanted to become a chef, the host decided to ask the young girl if she wanted to be one herself. She just said, “No,” which led to some awkward laughter.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, a lot of Cook’d is just killing time with foolish questions until the kids get the opportunity to taste the food. It ultimately builds up to “cooking” the chefs alive. I just don’t understand why there is a need to watch the cooks prepare the food, when Cook’d shows no effort in letting us in on the recipes and how exactly the chefs are preparing the food or even all the ingredients they use. You might get a glimpse of some of the ingredients the cooks are using when they’re at the pantry, and see a bit of the chef’s techniques later, but the focus then is on the vapid questions the host and kids have. So why not skip over that part completely if they don’t want to show us how the cooks prepare the food when the show needs to fill that time with inane chatter that does virtually nothing for the program? They might be able to fit in more dishes for the judges and Taste Buddies to try that way.
As chef Donna Dooher learned, a key to not getting cook'd is to be as nice as possible to the kids (screenshot via YTV)

As chef Donna Dooher learned, a key to not getting cook’d is to be as nice as possible to the kids (screenshot via YTV)

While you may be disappointed that you can’t pick up any recipes during Cook’d, chances are you probably wouldn’t want to make the dishes on the show for yourself or your kids (if you have any) anyway. When it comes to the actual dishes produced, they seem to often have a lot of butter, cheese, salt and/or sugar.

Producing a dish with any sort of nutritional value is a sure-fire way of getting yourself “cook’d.” When you consider that, it starts to become more of a mystery why this show even exists. While you have the obvious problem of young people not being quite as articulate as your typical adult food critic, you also have the problem that kids are drawn to food that’s not any good for them.

Michela, doesn't seem to be feeling a particular dish (screenshot via YTV)

Michela, doesn’t seem to be feeling a particular dish (screenshot via YTV)

However, some of the chefs seem unaware of that fact. One of the cooks decided to make a dish with snails in one round, and another chef decided to make squid ink pasta in another. Those seem like the perfect recipes to get cook’d to me.

I also wondered why Cook’d puts a time limit on the dishes. If things are undercooked, the kids could get sick. I’m guessing the chefs planned ahead of time what they’d cook to make sure it could be prepared within the time limit, and their dish was approved by those behind the show.

If that’s so, then why are the cooks grabbing ingredients in the pantry as if they thought of what to make the judges and Taste Buddies on the fly? What’s the whole point of that segment?

Perhaps the timer displayed during the time the chefs are preparing the food is not a timer for the chefs to cook the food, but rather for the time it takes to put the prepared food on the plate and to spruce it up to look nice. I’m not sure. I suppose other cooking shows use time limits, so it’s probably no biggie.

Also, you have to really doubt the kids don’t know what dishes the chefs are making beforehand as you’d need to consider that some kids maybe allergic to some food.
The kids on Cook'd are loud (screenshot via YTV)

The kids on Cook’d are loud (screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d appears to be designed as a co-viewing show, an effort for YTV to broaden its audience to get kids as well as their parents to tune into its programs (and by extension its ads). However, I doubt young people would be interested in watching Cook’d. Despite the manic bombardment of questions and other ways it tries to keep the show lively, it fails to remain interesting. While there are the cutesy kids, I can’t see parents watching this by themselves. The judges and Taste Buddies on Cook’d are rather exhausting with all their questions and yelling. For the few young folk who can tolerate Cook’d, I could imagine their parents being mildly intrigued by the program.

However, over on Family in Cook’d’s timeslot there’s the new version of Disney’s Win, Lose or Draw, which seems to have a far greater chance of having parents tune in. The older folks may remember earlier incarnations of it and would tune in with kids. The youngsters, on the other hand, maybe attracted to Win, Lose or Draw because it’s a show about drawing, and it’s on the same channel as many other popular kids’ programs like Phineas and Ferb and Jessie.

Co-viewing shows don’t make much sense to me as I think when you intentionally try to make a series that appeals to multiple generations, you have a great chance of making a show that appeals to virtually none, which I think is what YTV has here with Cook’dI mean, who wants to watch kids spit out a snail dinner? 

So what about viewers at home? (screenshot via YTV)

So what about viewers at home? (screenshot via YTV)

Even if you do manage to produce a program that both parents and young people like, why do advertisers care? Cook’d had ads for Target, Dyson and perhaps most awkwardly Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada. Kids can influence their parents’ buying decisions, but could you see a kid asking their parents to buy a Dyson vacuum or asking their parents to consolidate their credit? That’s probably not going to happen. I suppose co-viewing may make more sense for kids’ toys, and the suspiciously missing ads for sugary cereals and fast food, however there didn’t seem to be many ads like that during the show.

I remembered a lot of ads for other YTV series like My Babysitter is a Vampire and Teenage Ninja Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was even a PSA ad for Concerned Children’s Advertisers, which is now known as Companies Committed to Kids. When you think about it the PSA makes it seem like they weren’t able to sell many ads for Cook’d, and as it’s the exact same ad I used to remember seeing on YTV when I was a kid, only with the new name and logo at the end, it feels like something is off here.

In any case, the odd thing about YTV’s ventures in co-viewing programs is that the network seems to have cracked it ages ago, but all the network’s original shows that drew kids, and may have easily drawn parents as well are long gone. Uh Oh seems like the type of show the young crowd loved, but parents might watch as well. Why not reboot that? I suppose if YTV really wanted to, they could change it so teams are parents and their kids opposed to just youngsters, if they’re still hard pressed on making programs optimized for co-viewing. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that sounds better than whatever Cook’d is supposed to be.

The way to draw parents to watch TV with kids isn’t deliberately creating shows to draw them in, I think, but creating quality series that young people love, and curious parents will want to see what the fuss is all about. When I was a kid, I remember that my dad and I loved Shining Time Station and it didn’t seem like it was trying particularly hard to draw parents into the show. However, after thinking about it, casting Ringo Starr and George Carlin might have been a way to do just that.
Cook'd's giant silver spoon (screenshot via YTV)

Cook’d‘s giant silver spoon (screenshot via YTV)

I can’t see Cook’d lasting long. If it’s not for the ratings it will likely be because they’d run out of chefs who’d subject themselves to public humiliation for an oversized silver spoon. If YTV is trying to run the network into the ground and push kids over to get their entertainment from Netflix and YouTube, YTV can’t do much better than Cook’d.
Episode Reviewed: Fancy Restaurant 
Cook’d airs Tuesdays at 7 PM on YTV

 

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