This week, Food Network launched a new cooking competition, Big Bad Budget Battle, hosted by Ree Drummond. Its theme is cooking on a time crunch and a budget.
After the home cooks tour their kitchens and pantries, Ree tells the contestants, “We have a van outside waiting to take you to the local supermarket—and trust me, this is a market you are going to enjoy.”
“Wear your seat belt,” she says, perhaps with a wink and a nod, or maybe that was my face twitching, because when the contestants arrived, they were walking through the doors of Flavortown Market, i.e. the set where Guy’s Grocery Games is filmed. They entered where losing contestants leave: the “parking lot” area, where there’s a little kids’ carousel.
But did they really drive there? How much gas did they use? Did the production pay for carbon offsets, or did gas companies profit even more because of all that van travel?
I have a theory, dear reader, and it is a shocking one: not only did they use the grocery store, but the competition takes place on the very same set as Guy’s Grocery Games! There is no van.
Big Bad Budget Battle: sharing and scamming us?!?
First, a few words about the show, Big Bad Budget Battle (Food Network, Tuesdays at 10). I’ve only seen the first episode, but I thought was great for a familiar twist on what we’ve seen so many times before.
The challenges are remixes of other shows: Chopped’s 20 minutes, Guy’s Grocery Games’ $20 for two meals, et cetera. There are no eliminations, however, just a second-round advantage for the winner. And the winner of the second round gets a year’s worth of groceries, whatever that means.
The key difference is that, while this is most definitely not an instructional show, the two challenges require the home cooks to work on a tight budget and timetable, and they end up sharing techniques, both indirectly and explicitly.
As they cook, the home cook contestants explicitly talk through what’s identified on screen as a “shortcut.” Some of those are more creative than others, but I usually don’t pick up actionable tips watching other shows.
Ree Drummond is fine as a host, though I assume she was the second choice after the Big Bad Wolf, considering the title.
Using the Flavortown Market set—which contains an effectively functional grocery store, even though it very much a television set—makes perfect sense. While Guy Fieri films approximately 32 million episodes a year on that set, there’s time when it stands unused, and why build a brand-new set and stock a new pantry when the grocery store is right there?
What I don’t understand is why it’s pretending to be somewhere else. So let us investigate.
My research methodology
I’m convinced the production just set up a wall behind where the cooking stations are on Guy’s Grocery Games, between the produce section and the contestants.
Funded by my generous Patreon supporters, I embarked on an investigative journalism to test that hypothesis. Dear readers, I’m exhausted after spending literal minutes on this.
The results of my forensic investigation follows, which I conducted using highly technical tools, including my remote control and the screenshot feature on my Mac laptop, which can only be used by real professional investigators, since it requires three keys to be pressed at the same time.
I also did extensive research, digging through all of the thousands and thousands of episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games that have aired, and found clues in an episode called “Night on the Flavortown,” season 29, episode 12, which originally aired April 20, 2022.
I found that episode because—and I am very proud of this—a repeat of it aired right after the premiere of Big Bad Budget Battle’s premiere.
My investigation follows, which I began by doing the most challenging task: watching and looking.
Exhibit #1: the door of ‘the local supermarket’
The first clue that this is just the Guy’s Grocery Games set is that, well, it’s the Guy’s Grocery Games set.
But if you don’t believe me, pause as the contestants run through the door of the “local supermarket.”
Above the hours of operation is a logo for—and you might want to sit down, because this is our first shocking clue—Guy’s Grocery Games. That is a Food Network show, not a grocery store!!
Photo evidence is above. Case closed.
Okay, I guess this only proves they used the Guy’s Grocery Games grocery store. How do we know that Big Bad Budget Battle isn’t in an adjacent studio, or an actual van drive away?
Exhibit #2: the cooking stations
I think the two shows use the exact same cooking stations. How do I know? Did I send DNA evidence from the animal products that have been cooked on them to a lab to be processed along with my latest COVID PCR test?
No! I’ve discovered this because they look alike. Also, they have nearly identical designs. They are the same.
The key difference is that on Guy’s Grocery Games, the subway tile is green, while on Big Bad Budget Battle, it is white. But the surface, and decorative pieces that wrap around the stations, are the same. May I present to the jury this photo:
There is one other difference: the sides of the stations have been pushed together so there’s no gap between them and the front section, where the cooking surfaces are. But otherwise, they are the same. Because they are the same.
Exhibit #3: the fake back wall
Thanks to my detailed research and confidential sources, I know that sets are not real places, and have fake, non-load-bearing walls built by craftspeople to serve as backdrops. Those are often constructed inside soundstages.
There is something peculiar about the back wall on Big Bad Budget Battle: it does not touch the ground in some places. For instance:
Look at that gap! If you need to take a moment, I understand. If you are wondering why that gap matters, well, I suggest that it’s because this backdrop wall is even more of a temporary wall than one would typically find on a set. I think it’s just been set up to block our view of the Guy’s Grocery Games grocery store, which is right there behind it!
The floor is also uneven because, as you can see by Ree’s feet, there’s a step up—which you can also see on the Guy’s Grocery Games set: the cooking area is elevated. Which brings me to my last and most damning piece of evidence.
Exhibit #4: The floor
If you’re not already convinced that Big Bad Budget Battle and Guy’s Grocery Games are filmed on the exact same set using the exact same stations, I present to you the final piece of the puzzle: the floor.
Yes, the floor. It is identical. It is so identical that it seems the stations are even in the exact same place on both shows.
Big Bad Budget Battle has covered part of the floor in front of the stations with rugs and tables where the judges come to eat and, you know, judge. But that is not enough to hide their secret!
Just look at these two photos, onto which I have added arrows to point at the exact same features. Those are, in no particular order:
- the step up to the cooking area
- the discoloration on the floor between station #2 and 3
- the cut in the concrete in front of station #2
The rug almost entirely covers the cut in the floor, but it peeks out just at the bottom of the frame, thus revealing the secret.
I think that’s pretty conclusive proof that Big Bad Budget Battle is filmed in the exact same location as Guy’s Grocery Games, on the very same cooking stations. Pulitzer Prize committee, e-mail me for my address and you can send the award there.
So why doesn’t Big Bad Budget Battle just take place on the same set? Some of the on-air promos for the show have actually shown Ree Drummond with the produce section of Flavortown Market behind her. The two shows are also both produced by the same companies: Lando Entertainment and Guy Fieri’s Knuckle Sandwich.
My theory—and I will probably have to conduce several years of investigation to back this up, so stay tuned—is that the backdrop and slightly redecorated stations give it a different look and feel, so when the 76 people who still have cable are mindlessly channel surfing at night, they will not confuse the two shows.
Also, as much as don’t like blatant lies, I must admit that Walk around the corner of this set piece to shop the aisles hidden behind this wall we made doesn’t have the same ring to it as “We have a van outside waiting to take you to the local supermarket,” which really creates an image of travel, of van life, of navigating parking lots and holding up middle fingers to people who almost back into you.
So the next time you watch Big Bad Budget Battle, see if you notice more evidence that we’re still on the Guy’s Grocery Games set, and feel free to send it to me so I can add it to our case.