“Kris, how long until you plate?” Top Chef California winner Jeremy Ford asks Top Chef Seattle winner Kristen Kish. “Fuck you,” she replies.
Earlier in the episode, she said, “It’s funny how I said I wasn’t going to drink on this show, and all it took was two seconds to realize you do need to drink on this show,” and she takes a whiskey shot. Then Joel McHale pours whiskey down Justin Sutherland’s throat.
This is not Top Chef, of course, but truTV’s Fast Foodies, a quick, light meal of a reality show that’s part unconventional cooking competition, part affectionate hang-out, which together make for a satisfying half-hour.
While it stars three alumni from the Bravo competition, there’s no official connection, though I can imagine this show’s events happening late at night in the Top Chef house, if a celebrity stopped by and asked the chefs to duplicate their favorite fast food item.
The alumni are Top Chef Seattle winner Kristen Kish, Top Chef California winner Jeremy Ford, and Top Chef Kentucky contestant and Iron Chef winner Justin Sutherland, who gather hang out in an empty restaurant with a celebrity, competing, and sometimes drinking.
The episodes of Fast Foodies (truTV, Thursdays at 10:30) are a quick 24 minutes. First, the celebrity presents their favorite fast-food item, and after they all sample, the chefs get to work trying to duplicate it exactly.
The celebrity guest picks a winner, and then in the second round, all three chefs remix the fast food item into a much more Top Chef-y dish. Their goal is to make it taste like the original without actually duplicating it—and, for the two losers of the first round, while facing some kind of punishment.
There are hints of Netflix’s Nailed It! and FYI’s Late Nite Chef Fight here, and sometimes the show feels like Esquire’s Knife Fight without the raucous audience. (Fast Foodies was filmed within the last year, but it doesn’t feel like that affected anything we’re seeing.)
The chefs and the celebrities laugh and kid and have fun, and the editors do, too, sometimes cutting to stock footage or jokey title cards, like Food Network’s Worst Cooks In America does.
What sets it apart, though, is that while they’re clearly enjoying themselves, Kristen, Justin, and Jeremy are also treating the food seriously, and not just in the second round. They even describe and reconstruct fast food items with care.
“The texture and the meat jamminess—that is very quintessential Taco Bell,” Kristen says in her analysis of Amanda Seales’ favorite fast-food item: a cheesy gordita crunch. She explains how its layers affect our experience of eating it, and then sets about trying to recreate that layered experience.
As an example of how this goes, in round two, Justin turns the cheesy gordita crunch into shrimp and cheese grits, Kristen makes spiced mushrooms with a steamed bun, and Jeremy makes pâte à choux fritters.
The celebrity guests affect the tone of the episode, which makes each episode have a different level of spiciness or sauciness. The premiere, with Joel McHale, is drunker and more raucous than the other episode I watched, with Amanda Seales. As the chefs make hot dogs, Joel looks at what they’re doing and says, “I didn’t the show would come to a screeching halt as guys were just quietly massaging penis-shaped pieces of metal.”
If McHale’s on-the-nose observational humor isn’t your thing, the other episodes may be: James Van Der Beek, Charlotte McKinney, Bobby Lee, GaTa, Andy Richter, and Fortune Feimster are among the other celebrity guests.
Fast Foodies is fun while it happens and kind of forgettable once it’s over. It resembles its cuisine: rich and enjoyable to consume, with some nutrition and a lot of unctuous filler.
Fast Foodies: B+