Sweet Genius on the Food Network staring Chef Ron Ben-Israel: Cross-dressing pie makers from the midwest, female computer voices, giant action buttons and a deadly serious master chef.
Normally, I only write about desserts in New York City restaurants. However, last week I had the pleasure of meeting New York-based cake master and pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel and then watched his new show on the Food Network, Sweet Genius. Both meeting the Chef and watching the show were much more fun than I had expected.
As soon as I was introduced to Ron I immediately thought to myself, ahh so this is why they gave him his own show! I found Mr Israel to be incredibly charismatic and likable. He’s in the same category as Will Smith or George Forman–you’re not sure why, but you just like him (perhaps it’s the million dollar smile all three of them have?) Everyone who greeted him acted like he was a close friend who just returned home from being overseas.
In person, Ron is funny. He’s always smiling and has an Israeli accent that sometimes makes simple cooking words sound like expletives. On the show however, the Food Network has him play 100% serious, like a judge-deciding-a-death-penalty-case, serious. Which of course is really funny. His one-word quips (“soggy!”) to describe the contestants’ dishes are going to become instant classics when the show blows up (and I think it will). Other moments of seriousness that hit the humor target are when the Chef slams down a comically large button that reveals the shows specialty ingredients or theme and then an Austin-Powers worthy female computer voice gets piped in.
The rest of the show follows the same “so serious, we’re actually not taking ourselves too seriously” theme with plenty of tight shots of the contestants faces dripping with sweat and quotes from the contestants generally freaking out about completing their dishes or losing. At times, the show admits it’s trying to be funny. When one of the contestants turns out to be a cross-dressing, pie maker from the midwest they show a three-second montage shot of the contestant in 3-4 different drag outfits, then immediately goes back to more sweaty faces and stern looks from Ron.
If you enjoy laughing or you enjoy pastry chefs plying their trade under immense pressure (and hot studio lights) you will certainly enjoy watching Sweet Genius. Go here for the Sweet Genius website and TV schedule. Go here for the Ron Ben-Israel Cakes Website.