Snack Vs Chef is a Netflix Original cooking competition show that sees professional chefs attempting to recreate highly processed snack products with materials from the kitchen and then use the principles of those snacks to create brand new snacks worthy of mass production.
Snack Vs Chef has easily one of the best formats for a competition show I’ve seen. One of the biggest struggles with this type of show is often that the first few episodes are full of so many contestants that not enough airtime is able to be dedicated to all of them at once. So instead, you only get a little bit of everyone to the point that by episode four, you might still catch yourself saying, “who even is that?” Here, all of the contestants are brought in to start, but then three compete at a time for the first episode, with one winner from each advancing. When they’re not competing, the rest of the contestants remain on the other side of a giant glass window, watching, cheering, commenting, and bonding.
In the second half of the show, we get a more traditional four episodes of head-to-head competition with the same format and one departure per episode. What I really, really appreciate about this format is the way that while it only introduces you truly to three people at a time, we spend 30 minutes with them each. So if you’re binging the show, by the time you get to episode 5, you have a deeper rapport with each remaining contestant than I feel like I typically get watching the more traditional format. Plus, all the other contestants are still there in the background, so you’re still getting their personality and banter rubbing off in between true appearances.
The show’s conceit itself is also one of the best new ones in a while for me. Each contestant comes with a strong and distinct culinary or food science pedigree, yet, to replicate highly engineered industrial food products in a home kitchen? That’s a literally impossible task. And not only is it incredibly fun watching them try, it’s also just as fun watching them fail, repeatedly. More of the attempts end in failure or mediocrity, at best, than in true success. And it’s not a point to be mocked by any means like in Nailed It. It’s just a part of the process, and the contestants and judges alike give everyone a lot of grace. We all know how much I’m really in these shows for the relationships between contestants, and nothing bonds people stronger than collective failure.
Most of the other elements are just as well executed. The cast is diverse and has enough personality to carry without having any real stand-out characters, per se. The set is sometimes fun to look at, sometimes a bit too bare. It’s a candy shop with more of an industrial feel than the bubblegummy aesthetic another show may have picked, so from some angles, things are quite fun, and from others, just awkward bags of food hanging from mostly bare metal walls. The hosts are funny enough without being overbearing, and the judges are harsh but fair. You see just enough of them to get good insight or commentary, but given that none of them are famous or particularly thrilling to watch, I’m glad they largely blend into the background. The commentary from the folks on either side of the glass gets raunchy here and there, which somehow manages not to feel awkward or stilted most of the time.
The judges sometimes get a bit too pedantic for me, but you can tell they have a good relationship with the contestants and that they feel good-natured about it, so it eases my tension with them a bit. I admire the way the show truly makes it impossible to guess who will win and who will go home at any given time. The feedback the judges give is so well-ordained with positive and negative criticism that I’m genuinely surprised more often than not.
The one production issue I have is the fact that the contestants are filmed in different clothes for their interviews than their competition. Even though I know that most often the interviews in these shows are recorded after the competition has already ended as well-orchestrated reactions to moments the producers intend to highlight in the final cut of the show. But the blatant breaking of the time illusion was pretty distracting for me.
The same is true of how much drama they put behind revealing the second challenge of each episode, only for the competitors to be stocked with exactly the specific equipment or obscure ingredients they need moments later. It’s obvious they get to prepare in advance when this is the case, especially given their products are even put into beautifully custom-labeled plastic snack pouches. It doesn’t ruin the fun of the show by any means; it just requires a level of suspending disbelief that a show like this shouldn’t have to expect of me.
As a whole, Snack Vs Chef is one of my new favorite food competition shows. Its format, its conceit, and its results are all very fun, and the fact that failure is an expected part of the process feels really refreshing, especially given how herculean the tasks the competitors are assigned.
Snack Vs Chef is streaming now on Netflix.
Snack Vs Chef
- Rating - 8.5/108.5/10
Snack Vs Chef is one of my new favorite food competition shows. Its format, its conceit, and its results are all very fun, and the fact that failure is an expected part of the process feels really refreshing, especially given how herculean the tasks the competitors are assigned.