No matter how hard the network tries to make it look like trash, Conviction Kitchen is actually good
The last thing prime time television needs is another screaming chef, so we are relieved to report that Marc Thuet was right when he described his new TV program as more of a documentary than a reality show. Conviction Kitchen, in which Thuet and his partner, Biana Zorich, mentor a group of ex-cons to run their new restaurant, focuses on the food and the business aspect of running the establishment rather than the personal dramas of the contestants (shocking, indeed). Only three episodes have aired so far; for the most part, the six servers and seven cooks seem pretty competent and likable; they’d probably blow the contestants of Hell’s Kitchen out of the salted, boiling water.
But here’s where the problem lies.
The promos for Conviction Kitchen bill it as a Canadian Hell’s Kitchen and set viewers up for culinary train wrecks, emotional meltdowns and playground squabbles. Instead of a cartoon pitchfork sizzling in a pan, we see the show’s title branded in Thuet’s arm in between commercials. A dramatic Run, Lola, Run–style score is played during next week’s preview—accompanied by a bleep-laden Thuet rant—in an effort to make it seem like the Most! Shocking! Episode! Ever! Recaps try to play up conflicts between staff members, but it’s hard to be invested when so little screen time is given to the ex-cons (most of whom we had trouble identifying). Last week, things ended with an awkward and out-of-place elimination ceremony during which Thuet and Zorich whittled the 23 trainees down to 13.
Conviction Kitchen doesn’t need these fancy garnishes and sprinkles. It’s a refreshing and educational look at what it takes to open a restaurant; everyone on the show has a non-manufactured story to tell—whether it’s fighting for custody, battling addiction or just trying to rebuild their lives. Reducing such a show to the lowest common denominator of trash TV would just be, well, criminal.
Conviction Kitchen, Sundays at 10 p.m. on CityTV, official Web site.