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August 27, 2014

Chef John Besh Takes America's Home-Cooking From 'Inedible to Incredible'

by Maggie Furlong, posted Jun 21st 2010 10:00AM
Chef John BeshNew Orleans chef John Besh is no stranger to cooking on TV, but his new TLC show 'Inedible to Incredible' (premieres June 21 at 10PM ET) is nothing like what we've seen him do before.

Take away the hyper-focused battles of 'Next Iron Chef' and the off-the-wall twists of 'Top Chef Masters' and you get something that's just about cooking. Sort of like the 'What Not to Wear' of food, Besh's new show teaches Americans how to reinvent their cooking skills and revamp their relationships with food.

I talked to the enthusiastic chef to get his take on the new show, what he thinks the most common problem is for frustrated home cooks and his very candid feelings about those other shows you might've seen him on.

What's your new show, 'Inedible to Incredible,' all about?
It's like one of the few food-related shows that I've ever done that is really worthy. Walking out of the people's homes, these people are crying because of how much they've learned. It's really all about changing the way Americans cook, think and interact with food, just one ordinary house at a time.

How do you decide who to help?
Basically a spouse or a friend or a lover ... somebody calls and says, 'Look my significant other/great friend/whatever is a wonderful human being. They've got their act together, their life is so incredible, but their food is awful. They don't know how to cook, and I don't have the heart to tell them!' [Laughs] So then I have to come in and just shower them with a little bit of tough love. I get them to commit to working with me in their kitchen for three days. And in three days, I can change your life and the lives of all your friends and family.
'Inedible to Incredbile'
Three days? You're not just popping in and popping out ...
No! It's not about me coming in all chef to the rescue! It's always deeper than that -- it's not just me creating a cutesy meal, then everybody's happy. It's really working with these people, finding out what it is they're passionate about and helping them express themselves through food. Then the reveal at the very end is all about proving the people who said 'He can't cook' wrong.

John BeshYou're busy already -- were you able to sit back and enjoy doing this show?
It was really a blast to do. As a chef with six restaurants, a father and husband, I used everything in the show. I realize people don't cook in my big professional kitchens at home. It's easier when you have over 500 people working for you -- it's easy to be the big chef, pop in and create this whacked-out meal -- but it's not that way for the home cook.

The concept definitely sounds like a food makeover.
If you think about it, it's really very similar to the 'What Not to Wear' of food. It's not that the people just wear a bad outfit -- it's more philosophically changing the way they think about themselves and how they dress. This is really changing the way they think about food and interact with food. Most of the people I met were really just afraid of food. They wanted to have this great big family table, and they loved the idea of nourishing people and having friends and family close by, but they just didn't know how to exercise it.

Jamie OliverWhat do you think the biggest problem is?
The common problem was that people are so far removed from where their food comes from that they lack the ability to discern dos and don'ts. They weren't cooking with their heart, because they didn't have that attachment to food to begin with. I think Jamie Oliver really shined a light on that with 'Food Revolution' -- holding up a potato and youngsters don't know what it is, but holding up a French fry, they love it.

Changing topics here, but you know, I really thought you were gonna win the 'Next Iron Chef' ...
You know, I thought I was too! [Laughs] I really did. The way that last episode came about ... I think they had to make the production decision, and in the end, I think it worked out great. Had I done that, I would be stuck. I wouldn't have been able to work on my book, I probably wouldn't have the restaurants I have now and I would've never had the opportunity to work with TLC on this.

I'd still like to see you go head-to-head with Iron Chef Michael Symon again ... any chance you'll pop up on 'Iron Chef America' anytime soon?
You know ... one, I don't think Mike would want to do that [laughs], and two, now that I'm working with Discovery and TLC, I don't think that's even a possibility! [Laughs]

Inedible to IncredibleWe loved you on 'Top Chef Masters' too -- did you watch it this season?
I didn't. Here's my thing with some of these shows ... it was interesting for the first season, but I think my interest might've peaked. We all basically did it because of the charitable component of the show, but at a certain point I said to myself, 'I don't cook to win awards, I cook to make people happy.' Not, 'Let's see what he can do if we tie his hand behind his back!' It's like, come on. What I do, I don't want trivialized by standing on my hands and making a waffle. [Laughs]

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