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Rat in the Kitchen: now The Mole’s format is being used for a cooking competition

Rat in the Kitchen: now The Mole’s format is being used for a cooking competition

I’m such a fan of The Mole, and miss it so very, very much, that I am automatically going to be excited about any show that has even a hint of it.

That explains my early excitement over The Hustler, though as that ABC game show has proven now that it is on the air, capturing the magic of The Mole in one-off episodes—and also with a format that has nonsensical parts—is very challenging. The game gets exciting when there are three people left, but at the beginning is just absurd, with contestants accusing each other for no reason.

So will The Mole’s basic concept work when folded into a cooking competition? And how do you fold it in? I have no idea, but a newly announced TBS reality competition is attempting that, and sounds so weird that it has at least piqued my interest.

The show is called Rat in the Kitchen, and it’s a brand-new format developed by Glenn Hugill, whose UK production company Possessed is part of ITV Studios—and who hosted both seasons of the UK’s version of The Mole in 2001.

TBS ordered 10 hour-long episodes, but has not yet announced a premiere date nor even a date range.

The show will be judged by Ludo Lefebvre, who previously judged the ABC competition The Taste along with Anthony Bourdain, and hosted by comedian Natasha Leggero.

Rat in the Kitchen’s format

The Taste mentors
Ludo Lefebvre, second from left, when he judged The Taste with Nigella Lawson, Marcus Samuelsson, and Anthony Bourdain (Photo by Ron Tom/ABC)

Here are the two ways that TBS’s press release describes the format:

…each stand-alone episode of the new unscripted series brings six different dynamic chefs together to compete in the ultimate cooking battle. But there’s a twist — one of the chefs is an undercover ‘rat in the kitchen’ who sabotages fellow contestants’ chances to take home the ultimate cash prize at every opportunity

And:

In each episode, a mix of professional chefs and passionate home cooks compete in a series of creative cooking challenges, earning cash in their bank for every dish that impresses Chef Ludo. But they’ll have to avert the meddling of an undercover mole (the ‘rat’) determined to sabotage the dishes and undermine their chances at victory. The stakes: if the rat avoids detection, he/she wins big money. But, if found out, the rat will have to hunt for cheddar elsewhere.

What I don’t understand from that minimal description is how chefs “battle” yet are sabotaged. Are they cooking the same thing together? Are these actually talented chefs or Hell’s Kitchen cannon fodder or Nailed It contestants?

Will this be like dinner service at Hell’s Kitchen or a group challenge on Top Chef? Or is it like Chopped but one of the contestants, say, purposefully cuts themselves and then sprays blood on everyone’s chopping block so as to slow them down?

I suppose we will find out. But the press release is effusive about the potential. TBS reality executive Corie Henson said in the press release that this “is by far one of the most clever formats we’ve ever heard. It combines innovative cooking and everything you love about your favorite food shows, with a healthy serving of classic true crime whodunnit.”

Thinkfactory Media is producing the show, and its CEO, Adam Reed, said, “As a company with a history and ongoing focus on loud formats, ‘Rat’ checks all of the boxes for us. The series blends familiar elements from different beloved unscripted genres to create something wildly unique and fresh, yet simple and straightforward. With Natasha and Ludo at its center and vibrant personalities competing throughout, episodes will have viewers laughing, drooling over enticing dishes and cringing at the chefs’ glorious failures—all while obsessing over finding the ‘rat.’”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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