Once upon a time, maybe last year, someone, maybe Bobby Flay, was like, Let’s do Beat Bobby Flay, but Bobby Flay doesn’t have to cook!
Since the name Beat People We Can Pay Less Than Bobby doesn’t have a great ring to it, they went with Bobby’s Triple Threat.
In the tsunami of Food Network prime-time cooking competitions, Bobby’s Triple Threat borrows pieces from other shows, and has assembled them into the weirdest Frankenstein’s monster of a show that I continue to watch despite my better judgment.
On Food Network, Tournament of Champions is wildly popular, so the people behind Bobby’s Triple Threat took some of its format, but didn’t know what to do with them.
Also popular are Top Chef alum, so they added a few of those: Tiffany Derry, Brooke Williamson, and Michael Voltaggio.
Brooke, Michael, and Tiffany are called the titans, and hang out in what Food Network calls “Bobby’s secret kitchen,” which based on the title sounds like a casino and kinda looks like a restaurant in Las Vegas, but also functions as a speakeasy in that there’s a secret door and a password for people to enter, instead of just walking around to the side of the set where there is no wall.
Anyway, all this means that in each episode, “one competitor enters Bobby’s secret kitchen.” Now that sounds like an interesting show, though I don’t know if Food Network is ready for TV-MA content yet.
To differentiate Bobby’s Triple Threat from Beat Bobby Flay, the set now has a bar, and instead of an audience, there are about five extras shoved into a corner plus a bartender who’s constantly making drinks.
Who are all those drinks for? Is that a hint that the best way to watch this is totally plastered? I definitely need a drink every time I think about the judging.
The blind judging on Beat Bobby Flay was ridiculous enough—Here’s Chef A’s bowl of grilled Cheerios with roasted peppers, just try to guess who made that!—but it’s taken to dizzyingly dumb new levels here.
The judge themselves is a secret, until they walk into the kitchen and 1) sees who’s cooking, and then 2) are told who cooked each dish between rounds.
This is no longer blind judging; this is peek-a-boo-I-see-you judging.
In the rare case where the judge does not know the challenger and their food, they do after round one. They also know what scores they’ve given both of them.
Even if the producers aren’t rigging this, the math is simple enough that, in round three, the judge will know how many points the titans or challenger needs to win. Do they feel some kind of internal unconscious pressure to throw it to the titans? Maybe not, but I’m just trying to make sense of this nonsense.
The judges score two dishes from 1 to 10, except in the final round, when they score one dish 1 through 20, which seems backwards until you realize you’re now trying to analyze Bobby’s Triple Threat and you haven’t had any gin yet.
It’s obviously designed this way so that anything can happen in round three, except nearly always the titans win. (No one has bothered to update the show’s Wikipedia page, so I do not know the exact percentage). So let us talk about them.
These are two chefs that I really like, and one who’s grown on me over time. I think I used to be irritated by him, but so much time has passed, maybe that was his brother? I disliked him and his brother and their cockiness on Top Chef, I know that.
They are called the titans, yet they sit on the couch acting as small as possible.
They have a huge advantage: three versus one, a kitchen they’re familiar with—oh, and they frequently help each other by shouting advice while shouting shit-talk at the guest chef, whether or not that person is also one of their friends.
And I just am so irritated by them in this, though I also wonder if I should be worried about the titans. They seem to be terrified of losing, projecting far more anxiety than the guest chef. Their energy is not I love competition and we’ve got a good one today! but rather Oh god that person might beat us and then maybe so will Bobby.
If they fail to prevent the show from having to pay the prize of $25,000, do they have to pay it? Are they allowed to leave the kitchen?
What exactly is at stake for them? It seems huge, yet there is nothing visible. Their reputations are not going to be ruined by a loss on this show.
Yet the titans—should I be capitalizing that?—have a kind of bizarre entitled attitude sometimes, and this is why, in every single episode, I root for the guest chef. I am not sure if I am supposed to do this. Are the titans supposed to be the heroes? Or the villains?
Sometimes Bobby sits on the couch with them and also acts anxious for the titan who’s cooking. It just seems rude to invite someone over to your fake speakeasy secret kitchen thingy and then hope they get badly beaten up. Is this what happens in underground fighting clubs? Is that what all this actually is, and Bobby is like the promoter? I don’t know what happens in underground fight clubs.
A vaguely similar show is a show I very much enjoy, Alex vs. America, which flips the equation: one chef versus three competitors. Alex Guarnaschelli has a big advantage in her years of competition experience and home-field advantage, so her challengers choose all elements of the battle. Then the four dishes are judged blind by judges who, yes, do know that Alex made one dish, but have no idea who the other people are. So you know, much closer to blind judging.
In that context, Alex has clear advantages, but it seems like a fairer fight, even if Alex often wins. Bobby’s Triple Threat seems designed to save Bobby’s Triple Threat $25,000, or designed by someone who doesn’t understand why Tournament of Champions’ elements work together.
Somewhere in all of this format, we do get to see four people do some interesting and impressive cooking in a short time. Their creativity is impressive. The chefs, guest and titan, take two ingredients and produce two completely different dishes highlighting those two ingredients in different ways, and do it in about the amount of time it takes me to preheat the oven, open a bag of tater tots, and put them on a cookie sheet.
For the challengers, season two of Bobby’s Triple Threat has brought in well-known chefs, including Mei Lin, Jose Garces, Shota Nakajima, Kelsey Barnard Clark, Scott Conant, and Michael Symon. In one episode, Bobby said something to the titans about them wanting more competition this season.
If they win, they get the cash and get to come back to Bobby’s Triple Threat whenever they want, yet so far no one has taken them up on that offer. I am not surprised!