Stream or skip? +2023

in the Takeaway Vs. Chef, 12 chefs compete, three at a time, for a chance to be in the final round of the show for a grand prize of $50,000. In the series, which is hosted by comedians Megan Stalter and Hari Kondabolu, chefs are challenged to recreate a popular snack in the first round of each episode’s competition, and in the second round they are asked to create a new snack using elements from to create the intended snack for the episode. Food scientists Ali Bouzari and Helen Park are the judges.

opening shot: A group of 12 chefs enter a soundstage that looks like a bodega.

The essentials: In the first episode, the snacks the chefs have to recreate are Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The idea is not only that they need to make a crunchy Cheeto with the right consistency, but also the flavorful, bright red cheese powder that coats them. The emulation needs to include what they call the “cheetle,” which is the bits of cheese that are left on your fingers, turning them orange or, in this case, red.

The snacks that the three chefs have to create in the second round all have to have that Cheetle-like coating, no matter what the flavor. In other words, it has to leave a residue on your fingers, whether it’s a french fry or a roll of fruit leather.

Takeaway Vs. Chef
Photo: Netflix

What shows will it remind you of? The format of Takeaway Vs. Chef is a strange mix of top chef and Chopped; Only three of the twelve chefs compete at a time, but the winner of each of the four preliminary rounds advances to a second round, then the two winners of that second round compete for the grand prize.

Our opinion: One of the things that fascinate us Takeaway Vs. Chef is that the show asks these chefs to recreate, on a small scale, something that is made in large quantities in an industrial setting. Chefs admit that the recipes for the various snacks like Pringles, Oreos, Ho Hos, Gushers and more are insanely complicated. But we love that they’re trying to replicate them anyway.

For us, the repetition round is more interesting than the second round, which creates original snacks. For example, we loved seeing one of the chefs create puffy, pliable Cheetos that are purple instead of red; they looked more like litter-encrusted cat feces than anything edible. And we really enjoyed watching the puffs explode out of the oil while frying because there was too much water in the mixture. The complex recipes of the snacks suggest a high level of failure in this round, while the second round feels more like a traditional cook-off round.

Kondabolu and Salter, two very funny comedians, are a bit reserved here, especially Stalter. She seems more there for the enthusiasm she showed at hacks than for improvising a few fun observations. Kondabolu is a bit better in that regard, but it feels like her funniest lines were left out of the episode. In many ways, Bouzari and Park proved to be more easy-going and fun than the hosts, and that doesn’t do all four hosts and judges any favors.

gender and skin: none.

farewell shot: The next challenge tumbles out of the machine: Pringles! One of the remaining chefs tells a producer that they are “so difficult to make”.

sleeping star: We give this to the production designers, who not only create snack wrappers for each contestant—when their wrapper comes out of the vending machine, they’re chosen for that round—but also the wrappers for the new snacks that will be created in the second round.

Most pilot line: Those contestants not selected for a round must watch the competition from the bodega half of the set, cooped up behind a window as if they were being interrogated by the police. It’s awkward and feels like something we’d be reluctant to be around for during an hour-long shoot.

Our appeal: Stream it. Takeaway Vs. Chef is clumsily formatted and doesn’t seem to make very good use of its very funny hosts. But the recovery round is an eye-catcher, even if the snacks created usually don’t look that appetizing.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he doesn’t fool himself: He’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon,,, Fast Company, and elsewhere.

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