The difference between The Big Break and other cooking reality shows is that TBB helps underprivileged youths who have no or little experience in cooking. Together with Resorts Worlds Sentosa (RWS), Asian Food Channel scouts for 12 underprivileged teens in 6 Asian countries to give the winner a $30, 000 scholarship at a top culinary school.
The humaneness and compassion of the show are the best reasons to watch it. Unlike other reality cooking shows which throw contestants blindly into each challenge, the RWS chefs teach the youths certain culinary skills first and then test them. The comments that the judges give are kind but honest. The youngster who gets eliminated walks away with $2,000 to aid him or her in future culinary endeavors. So even if they lose, they get some financial help.
It is Schadenfreude nature to enjoy people being debased: we watch American Idol because we take pleasure in Simon Cowell’s sarcasm. But since TBB aims to encourage, instead of shaming and demeaning, the adolescents, the entertainment value and excitement come from whether they can complete their challenge and how successful they are. In this way, TBB may be more meaningful but less entertaining than other reality shows.
Another shortcoming of TBB is perhaps the host, Farah Quinn, could be more polished.
But perhaps Miss Quinn’s style is compatible with the rawness of the teenagers. Because of their youth, their emotions seem more real than other reality shows’ contestants, fostering goodwill among themselves and not backstabbing and bad blood. Being teens they are also more awkward, which can be endearing.
The show interviews how the teens feel but not how they think. It doesn’t interview the youths to explain their creations because the inexperienced contestants are in an heuristic phase and haven’t yet formed culinary philosophies. But by not finding out their thought processes behind their food, the show not only shifts the focus away from the food to human interactions, defeating the purpose of a culinary program, it also silences voices of the disenfranchised.
It’s a difficult situation for the director of the show to balance between including and excluding the youths’ nascent culinary philosophies but this difficulty shouldn’t detract from the kind intentions of the program.
A new episode of The Big Break airs on Asian Food Channel every Wednesday, 10pm at Starhub Channel 435.
PS: Thanks to Tripti and AFC for the screening.
Categories: 1. Cuisine