When judges eliminated America’s Sick Kid (Aaron Carter) in the first episode, I’ll admit that I was unsure whether or not Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off had legs. I was also unsure whether Aaron Carter had legs, because his vests and Jigsaw face make him look like a ventriloquist’s dummy. Are we sure we ever saw him standing on his own two feet without Joey Fatone a few inches away, his arm buried elbow-deep in Aaron’s party? Whoever is doing the Aaron Carter Puppet voice is a little offensive. No one really talks like that. “What about a macaroni salad?”
Either way, Carter’s gone now, up in heaven, probably asking whether St. Peter would like to try Aaron’s famous homemade Chex Mix and also does St. Peter know where in heaven one could purchase like a LOT of Sudafed DM at once? (I’m kidding. Aaron Carter is not dead. And if he were, he would certainly not be in any Christian heaven. He looks like somebody was making a vampire and just gave up. And Aaron’s like, “Wait, you drained all my blood but I’m not immortal yet!” and the vampire’s all, “Uh, I decided I don’t want you to live forever at ALL. I’m going to bury you behind a barn.” But plucky Carter dug himself out because one time he beat Shaq.) Luckily for all of us — but no one on the show — Rachael vs. Guy’s second episode proves it ripe. In the seven hours between the taping of the first two episodes, these seven celebrities and two hosts did not get their acts together and become capable or human.
Aaron’s elimination leaves Team Rachael at three members to Guy’s four. Their challenge is to each make a dessert, and Rachael’s short-handed team must make one extra. A panel of experts, 13 pastry students from a “local professional culinary school,” will judge the dishes. It must be an impressive school if they do not say which one it is even once. “Don’t worry, everybody. It’s definitely local and it’s practically fully accredited.” The “students” might be from a prison, because I swear I saw manacles chaining their ankles together when they marched in.
Cocksure Lou Diamond Phillips is nervous to hear that students will evaluate his food. “I’ve taught acting classes, and there’s a certain amount of arrogance that comes out of someone about to graduate from their education into the real world.” I have a couple of issues with that, La Bamba. First off, acting classes are not a real “education,” and even if we accept that they are, what you do when you’re done with them is most definitely not the “real world.” Also, LDP is an extremely arrogant pot calling the kettle black. This episode was filled to the brim with uncomfortable displays of Mr. Diamond Phillips’ confidence. He calls desserts “the one weak point in my culinary arsenal.” I don’t think lemon curd and puff pastry with a Prosecco raspberry sauce counts as a “weapon” in any “arsenal,” at least not in America. That is a disservice to the proud men and women in the armed forces, like Lou played in Courage Under Fire. And when Lou has to energetically introduce his team’s desserts, he says, “There are many times in my life where I forget that I’m famous. But from time to time, it comes in handy.” Wow. Honestly, I have a hard time believing Lou Diamond Phillips ever forgets, for even a second, that he is famous. “Hey, I’m a normal guy. I put on my chaps from the set of the movie Young Guns 2 just like everybody else. My assistant helps me with one leg at a time, while simultaneously BBM’ing my good friend Emilio Estevez about meeting me for a 10:30 Zumba class.”
Before the teams begin on their desserts, Guy and Rachael announce that there’s a twist, to complicate things. That is already a funny notion, as if a twist is needed to complicate things for these three-toed mouth-breathers. “The twist is that you each have to cook desserts without the aid of your handlers, prescription medication, or weapons-grade concealer makeup.” One of each team’s four desserts must contain a “savory ingredient.” Whatever the opposite of a look of recognition is appears on the face of each celebrity when the word “savory” is said. “You mean, like a place where you save money? Isn’t that called a bank? Either way, we don’t know ANYTHING about putting away money. That’s why we’re here.” Guy and Rachael slowly explain savory in increasingly simple terms. “NOT SWEET.” Everyone finally gets it when the savory ingredient is revealed. Team Guy has to make a dessert with horseradish, and Team Rachael must work in anchovies.
Each team brainstorms in the glorified green room Guy refers to as “the dojo.” Guy calls them “dojos” because, as evidenced by the French fry and BBQ steak sushi roll on the menu of Tex Wasabi’s, he’s extremely respectful of Japanese culture and traditions. Once again, Guy and Rachael take a firm hand in steering their respective team members. They are also amazing at accidental synergy. Both Guy and Rachael instruct their teams to put the savory ingredient inside a cannoli shell. I already pitied the 13 judges for having to eat the celebrities’ regular desserts, but now they’ve got to take down both a wasabi and an anchovy cannoli. I’m going to hurl. “The Anchovy Cannoli” sounds like a racist name for an Italian prizefighter in the '30s.
All the celebrities struggle in the kitchen. (Expect to see me write that sentence numerous times during this show’s six-episode run. In fact, the sentence “All the celebrities struggle in the kitchen” would make a very appropriate summary of this entire series.) Desserts are an admittedly hard thing to nail, as they are precise and much less forgiving than regular cooking. But even with all the recipe help that’s obviously going on off-camera, everybody is in the weeds. Most of the batters are “too thin” and no one has a clue how to fix what. Cheech says, “I’ve never made a brownie before. A legal brownie, that is.” I get it, because of pot. Well, Cheech, take your pot-brownie recipe and remove the weed. You’re halfway there. Coolio, despite his outlandish behavior, is in some ways the most serious of the competitors. He would honestly love to have a show on the Food Network. He quietly reveals, “I’m kinda old to be rapping,” and my heart breaks into a thousand little pieces. LDP is all intensity. When he finds out his oven is off, he screams both “Holy Cannoli!” and “Man-O-Manischewitz!” Note: He is neither Italian nor Jewish.
The contestants come up with “clever names” for their dishes. LDP names his lemon curd “Pucker Up, Yvonne,” in honor of his wife. Uh, I bet there is a story behind that, but please keep it to yourself. Joey Fatone, continuing in the proud tradition of last week’s Fatone’s Camarones, calls his dish Fat One’s Cannoli. He is so playful with the way he puts his last name before words. It’s inspired. Taylor Dane serves Stacked Strawberry Shortcake, a reference to how she is physically stacked. When she first blurted out the name of her dish, I thought she said “STAT!” Everyone clapped and I was so confused. “Stat” as in “Doctor, we’ve mangled this poor singer’s plastic surgery. We need to call the hospital’s lawyers, stat”? Oh, she said, “stacked”! That makes a little bit more sense, because there are layers to her shortcake, and also she has gigantic breasts.
As the judges try each dessert, I notice in the upper-right corner that this show is rated G. I disagree. Parents, do not let young children watch this show under any circumstances. I also notice that Guy Fieri has an earpiece in. It is not uncommon for a host to be in touch with his producer during filming, but I like to imagine what the producer’s guidance is. “OK, Guy, great job, keep being kinda gross. OK, give Miss USA one too many compliments NOW. Don’t stop having your sunglasses on the back of your head. Look really confused and like a fat Colin Farrell for 3, 2, 1, and throw to commercial. Perfect.”
Some of the dishes score better than others with the pastry chefs. Joey Fatone’s wasabi cannoli makes a few of them cry, presumably not because of its flavors’ sheer artistry. For some, Coolio’s Grandma’s lemon-pudding cake has an off texture, but one pastry student loves it. “I’m living in a pudding cake paradise.” Incredible! Everybody goes crazy for that joke. I can’t imagine a worse play on “living in the Gangsta’s Paradise” than that, so consider me impressed.
Despite 13 judges, the two teams somehow manage to tie. The tie screws with the “normal” elimination policy, and it means, unfairly, that the two team captains, Summer Sanders and Miss USA, will fight to stay on the show. I bet Guy Fieri made a gross catfight joke that got edited out. Like last week, the two challengers have just a few minutes to prepare a dish using a secret ingredient. This week’s ingredient is ... salad. What? What is this show? This episode’s segments were DESSERT and SALAD. Amazing. “You know what is delicious after eating eight desserts? A nice salmon salad. It really settles the stomach. It’s sort of a French thing.”
A huge spread of salad ingredients seems like an easy challenge, but both Summer and Alyssa face difficulty. I sympathize, because when up against an unlimited salad buffet, I freeze up, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away dazed and glassy-eyed from a takeout salad place with a container filled with spinach, Craisins, hardboiled eggs, crab meat, fried wontons, and roasted turkey, all tossed with Fat-Free Buffalo Blue Cheese dressing. Alyssa gets busy drowning mushrooms and peppers in oil, and Summer has ten minutes to intensely undercook her salmon. Alyssa wonders if she should put her dressing on the side. Um, no. Only moms and L.A. assholes get their dressing on the side. Make the salad. The five other celebrities watch on clumsily. What a weird scene. Are we in purgatory? Is this like the last episode of Lost, where we find out that all these celebrities, and the entire audience, has been dead for awhile? I certainly hope so, because it would explain a lot.
Guy and Rachael taste each dish and pull compliments out of their butts. Rachael goes on about how whoever cooked the salmon salad (Summer) really made a point to make the presentation beautiful, and as she does, the show cuts to a glamour shot of the salad, and there is a fly on it. There is a bug crawling on the food. That is absolutely perfect, and nothing could serve as a better metaphor for this television program than a live insect appearing in the one second of the show where the food is supposed to look edible. I have seen Drag Me to Hell. Doesn’t a pest like this mean there are demons around? Either way, I feel like there are definitely demons around. I wonder if the two minions of Satan with whom Rachael and Guy signed Hell pacts ever get weird about having to share a room while filming this show. “Hey, Succorbenoth. Funny seeing you here. How’s the wife? Still sentenced to a hundred thousand lifetimes of venomous donkey bites? Great, great. Well, I better get back to keeping Guy famous. Stay cool.”
Alyssa is eliminated. But she doesn’t let the defeat get her down. “Don’t be surprised if you see a Miss USA cookbook coming out!” I promise nothing, Alyssa.
Max Silvestri is a comedian and a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter, where he mostly talks about food.
Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off Apocalypse